Because exceptional customer service is a personal passion of mine, I am always analyzing, critiquing and even judging the customer service I receive or witness others around me receiving. I had the opportunity the other day, whilst standing in line at a gas station, to witness some very sad service provided by the gas station attendant to another customer.
The customer came up to the counter holding a cup of coffee. He mentioned to the attendant that the coffee was extremely hot and that it had burned his hand while attempting to put a lid on the cup. Without even batting an eye the attendant said, and I quote, “yeah it is really hot — just put some ice in it.” The customer was taken aback and again expressed that he had just burned his hand and that the coffee was much too hot. The attendant did not even apologize or ask the man if his hand was okay but only said “yup it is hot…that is the way we were told to make it.”
At this point I thought the customer would just give up and pay. However, he was expecting some type of resolution, so he got a little bit upset and said “I am telling you this coffee is too hot and I am going to sue!” The stellar attendant then said, “I really don’t care – that is the way it is.” I thought, “WOW, really?” After I recovered from my momentary shock I paid and left, contemplating what I had just witnessed. I thought to myself, “well, that could have been handled so differently.”
This little story brings me to my question. Is providing decent customer service, not even good or exceptional service, but merely decent service, really that hard? In the situation above a straightforward “I am sorry” or “Thank you for bringing that to my attention, I will turn it down a bit” was really all the customer was asking for.
Now, if we were going for good or exceptional customer service, the attendant would have apologized for the coffee being too hot, asked if the customer was okay, offered to put some ice in a bag for his burn, and then not charged him for the coffee. Would this have taken any more time or would the gas station have lost any money by giving away one cup of coffee? Absolutely not. They would have gained a loyal customer that would spend far more in the future than the cost of a single cup of coffee.
Providing decent customer service is really very simple. By merely using basic skills that we were all taught in kindergarten, anyone, and I really mean ANYONE, can do it. Saying things like: I am sorry, excuse me, please and thank you, good morning and good night are common courtesies and a basic way to provide decent customer service.
Common courtesies are only the beginning. Providing good or excellent service can be much more involved and require a greater effort on both the employer’s and employee’s parts. It means that an employer has to understand that providing excellent service truly reflects the bottom line of the company. It means hiring and educating employees on proper customer service techniques and it means following these techniques religiously.
Employees need to be committed and engaged in practicing proper customer service techniques. They have to understand how important good or excellent customer service is for the company.
Defining proper customer service techniques could be another blog or several other blogs entirely. There are so many points to providing good and excellent customer service; everything from the greeting, understanding the customer’s needs, product and service knowledge, problem resolution, service recovery, customer loyalty and on and on and on…
While providing decent customer service can be fairly simple, and providing good and excellent customer service can be much more challenging, the rewards of building a loyal customer base are well worth the effort. Hopefully we can talk about how to overcome customer service challenges in future blog posts. Be well and remember the golden rule of customer service: “treat your customer as you would like to be treated!”