Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why “Customer” is the Most Important Aspect of “Customer Service”

Do you ever wonder why some people are selected to (or choose to) work in customer-facing positions?  I do.  I believe businesses could do a much better job of choosing their employees… To make sure they have the “right people in the right seats on their bus,” so to speak.  Alas, life is not that simple. (sigh)

The problem is sometimes people working in service businesses get so wrapped up in following instructions, or completing the task at hand, that they forget about the most important part, the customer experience.  It happens all the time, especially in a society where speed seems to take precedence over everything else.

A Service Dilemma Illustrated

A couple of weeks ago I attended a conference at a historic, beautiful hotel.  By all accounts the hotel did a great job of accommodating our group, consisting primarily of meeting and event professionals.  For the hotel, this was no easy feat, given our chosen line of work, as we are probably some of the most critical business people around, when it comes to service expectations.

I noticed, over the 4 days of the meeting, the hotel was always very much on top of their game.  They efficiently and quickly refreshed our meeting rooms, replenished coffee breaks, and promptly attended to our catered meal functions.  In fact, the banquet staff was so eager to provide service that at times it became annoying.

At one lunch the waiters (they worked in teams) at our table relentlessly picked up food items from our place settings, before we could even finish eating them, without asking us for permission.  Trust me, that is a quick way to ruin a good meal.  Finally, unable to contain myself any longer, I lost my patience.

With a sudden verbal expression of frustration I stopped them dead in their tracks.  I even surprised myself, for a moment, at my outburst.  Interestingly,  I later learned most everyone else at the table felt the same way I did, but had just been hesitant to say anything.

In hindsight, these waiters were clearly under pressure to meet a deadline, as communicated by someone in hotel management.   I would imagine (not a fact, only speculation) the conference organizer requested expedited banquet service to keep the conference program on schedule.  The wait staff followed instructions, some of them abandoning, in all the stress, the other important aspects of a service experience.

So, what customer service lessons can be learned from this story?

Customer Service is a Art

Great customer service does not come easily.  There is an art to delivering an awesome service experience, regardless of what business you are in.  Here are some thoughts on how to get there:

Pay attention To Your Customer — First and foremost tune in to them.  Seek to understand their needs and demonstrate to them, through your actions, that you do.  Prompt service, without attention to overall needs, is downright foolish.

Care Like You Mean It — In order to deliver exceptional service, you must first truly be interested in providing it.  Delivering service in a robotic, drone-like manner is not engaging, and won’t be appreciated.  If you don’t care about the quality of the experience, customers will notice that, and you will lose them.

Show Some Artistic Flair– Find unique ways to show customers they are special.  Intuitive remarks, extra touches (such as personal note-cards), and sincere compliments show you care, and they will appreciate you for it.  It will distinguish you from other suppliers, and make their service experience memorable.

Have Some Fun, Enjoy Your Job — Don’t take what you do so seriously that you can’t relax, enjoy people around you, and laugh a little.  Smiles and Humorous comments are infectious, and people do love them.  Take time to savor the experience, and your customers will too.  It will make your day go a lot smoother!

Question:  What are you doing to raise your game, with your customers?  What are some of the most effective personal touches you have used to connect with them?  What did I miss in this article?  Please share with us!

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