Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

Customer Service Can Make It or Break It

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 8, 2007

customer-service.jpgCustomer service can be an organization’s crown jewel or its embarrassment.  It says a lot about your company. 

From a customer perspective, it tells them where you are focused. 

Are you just trying to get me off the phone quickly so you can go on to other calls?  Or do you take the time I need to follow an issue through to its completion, taking ownership for my problem? 

Do I have to repeat my information multiple times as I interact with you?   Or do you use the information you have about me to make our time together more efficient (a benefit for us both)?

From an employee perspective, it tells them whether people are treated with respect.  This is especially important for customer service employees, who are sometimes treated as just another “warm body in a seat”. 

Do I really get to answer the customer’s question?  Or do I need to carefully reply from a set of scripted responses?

Am I empowered to resolve the customer’s problem?  Or am I required to pass the problem along to someone else so I can keep my “talk time” numbers low?

Customer service can be a true jewel for any organization.  This is the department where direct customer interaction most frequently takes place, and it is the face of the company for many customers.  It can also provide competitive advantage as you learn things about your customers that your competitors don’t know, simply because you have the relationship already. 

You can also find some of your most valuable employees in customer service.  Valeria Maltoni wrote a great post for Fast Company about how to find a “customer service champ”.  I especially like Valeria’s description of the champ’s characteristics:

- She has specific ideas of how to improve internal processes to provide a faster response to your customers.

- She can describe to you in detail what good service means to your customers.

- She can enroll everyone in the organization to help her provide your customers with a superior experience.

When you find these employees, make sure to treat them with respect and reward them appropriately!  Their customer touch-point is critical.

On the flip side, customer service can also drive people away.  Mike Wagner from Own Your Brand sent me this story, which he gave me permission to share with all of you.

“I was getting ready to do a “brand ownership” presentation and was greeting people with some small talk.  Two of the folks began talking about cell phone service after a comment was made about a negative service experience with Sprint.

Suddenly, four others in the group joined at the mention of Sprint and bad service.  I was left to watch as one story after another was shared about how bad the service was with Sprint.

Finally, one woman shared that her son, who works for Sprint, told her not to even bother with customer service at Sprint.  He also gave her the name of the carrier he recommends and told her to switch.

Customers rock…and they will roll on down the street to your competitor!”

Well put, Mike!

What does your customer service department say about your company?  If you aren’t sure, go spend some time there and find out.  Bring them into your strategic planning sessions, if they aren’t there already.  You will find them to be a tremendous asset to your organization as well as a great way to understand your customers better!

(Photo credit: uploaded by guyerwood)

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9 Responses to “Customer Service Can Make It or Break It”

  1. We’ve all heard the stories and lived some in first person: horrible experiences on trying to receive assistance from a company. I really would not call it service, would you?

    I do wonder though if it’s the fault of the reps, or if it is the fault of the organization that doesn’t understand how it needs to structure to assist clients.

  2. Thank you for your thoughts, Valeria! I think there are several potential reasons for poor service (I think I feel a future blog post coming on). Someone could be having a bad day (or just isn’t suited to a customer-facing role). It could be the organization’s structure.

    It could also be the metrics; reps do what they are measured to do, for the most part.

    It could also be us. Many of us put on a surly attitude when we feel we deserve better. Having listened-in on customer service calls, I can tell you that some of those reps have a pretty hard job staying positive when the customer is rude to them.

    It could also be that customer service is not a priority for many organizations. It is viewed as an expense rather than as an investment. Unless we invest in our customers, they may indeed roll on down the street to a competitor!

  3. Becky, thanks for taking my story and putting it in such a meaningful context.

    It was great to play a part in your conversation and that of Valeria’s!

    Keep creating,
    Mike

  4. Thanks for allowing me to share the story, Mike.

    When even one’s employees are recommending other companies based on poor service, it is time to have an overhaul.

  5. [...] Posts Growing the Business: Coffee House BluesCustomer Service Can Make It or Break ItThanking OthersWhere Did My Dress Go?Tips for Listening and LearningIs Ambient Marketing Good for [...]

  6. Jerónimo said

    A few years ago I worked for an offshore customer service company that worked for companies in the US.
    Although you may feel tempted to put the blame of bad service on the reps, let me tell you that most companies have detailed guidelines that the rep must follow in order not to get fired. The purpose of this scripted guides changes from company to company. In MCI it was to sell you something, in Tracfone the most important thing was to gwet rid of the clien fast. While I worked there, I never met a CSR who didn’t want to help; yet, if you did help everyone without selling them something or taking the time to solve a problem you were surely not going to make it to the end of the month.
    Even today, I would recommend MCI if you’re looking for a phone company. But, whatever you do don’t get a Tracfone. The slightest complication may turn into a nightmare due to their policies.

  7. Jeronimo, thank you for adding your perspective. It is usually not the rep’s fault, as you point out, and I am always careful to encourage Customers Rock! readers to treat reps with respect. Usually, they are following a set script or guidelines, as you shared, from which they cannot deviate. They can escalate, but depending on their measures, they may not be incented to do so.

    It is only when an organization begins to view their customer service department in a strategic role that true change can begin.

  8. hi, can i say i feel more happy to buy from a site that has live help on the site, so if anything goes wrong you know you have direct contact.

    which should be done more on the internet i think some support desks are good but you still have to wait half the time till the next day, which is annoying alot of the time.

  9. Albert, thank you for your comment. I agree, the customer experience is often poor on the web where there is no easy way to contact a live person. This can especially be an issue if one lives overseas!

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