How often do you find that you and your family or friends discussing a horrible customer service experience – something that happened at a local store, on the telephone, with a service person, etc.? If you are like most, these conversations happen with alarming regularity. Weekly – sometimes daily. Do you have places to which you have vowed never to return because of a poor experience you received? Again, if you are like most, the answer is a resounding yes.
So why does this keep happening? Why is it that so many people – and entire organizations – don’t seem to understand how to deliver customer service? The answer, ironically enough. is that most people aren’t improving because they already believe they do understand it.
You see, customer service is like a meal or a movie. Most of us have had a wide range of experiences – from the very best to the very worst. We recognize great meals, movies and customer service when we encounter them. They are things we look forward to, and appreciate when they happen. We are also confident critics of customer service, just as we are of food and films. The mistake most people make, however, is confusing appreciation and ability with expertise, knowledge and skill.
I, for example, appreciate great food. I also know how to use most of the things hanging around in our kitchen. But neither of those things mean that I understand how to make great food. Despite my appreciative palate, and having the tools to make Wonderful Things, I lack the expertise, knowledge and skill to do so. Sure, I can cook a meal, but one from Mesa Grill’s world-renown chef Christian Fletcher will always taste better. Similarly, while I feel quite qualified to say that Gone with the Wind is one of the best motion pictures ever made, I don’t really understand the techniques director Victor Fleming used to create it.
Customer service looks easy. It feels intuitive. Many of the components seem to fall into the much maligned category of ‘common sense.’ And that’s the trap. There are countless myths – some very counterproductive – about how to deliver amazing customer experiences. ‘I just treat people the way I would like to be treated,’ ‘The customer is always right,’ ‘shorter wait-times equal happier customers’ are just a few.
Despite the seeming simplicity of customer service, the mechanics that make up consistent World-Class customer experiences are far beyond the do-it-yourself approach that most companies take. The skills and strategies that individuals needed to deliver World-Class customer service ten short years ago are profoundly different than those required today.
Why are so many individuals and organizations failing to improve their service? Most really just don’t take it seriously. They rest on their laurels, rely on outdated strategies, then find ways to rationalize their inaction. When challenged, they pooh-pooh the need for change, or argue that customers are becoming unreasonable. Very few have the courage to look in the mirror.
About the Author
Shaun Belding is CEO of The Belding Group of Companies, which helps organizations improve customer experience through customer service training and measurement. He is recognized as one of the leading global experts on customer service, service recovery, employee performance and building positive workplaces.Shaun is author of the international best-selling ‘Winning with the (customer, employee, boss, caller) from Hell’ book series, published in 10 languages. His newest book – ‘Win at Work: navigate the nasties, get things done and get ahead’ was released in June 2010.Shaun speaks extensively on customer service, employee performance and positive workplaces. For more information, visit www.beldingskills.com.To sign up for his free weekly newsletter, Winning at Work, follow this link.