Monday, May 31, 2010

Customer Service Can Happen Anywhere

One of the traditions of Memorial Day in many families is going to visit cemeteries, and placing flags there to commemorate the service and sacrifice of those who served in the military. I hope that all of us have spent a little time this Memorial Day reflecting on the human stories represented by those flags.

My friend Cris Buckley told me a story about a very unexpected Customer Service experience this weekend. Cris was visiting a cemetery where a friend is buried. When she arrived, she was offered a questionnaire, and asked if she would fill it out and return it on the way out. She agreed.

The questionnaire asked questions such as:
  • Who are you visiting?
  • What do you think of the plot?
  • How can we improve it?
  • What do you think of the grounds in general?
  • How can we improve them?
There was also an area on the questionnaire to request more information about specific items of interest.

The words "Customer Service" and "cemetery" are not often seen together, but Cris felt like she'd had a great Customer Service experience. And why not? A cemetery is, after all, a business, and one that provides a service that can be very personally sensitive.

Great Customer Service can happen anywhere, at any time. All that's necessary is a relationship of Customer to any business or service. The quality of the service is determined solely by the Customer.

Cris, thanks for sharing your story.

Give it some thought.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Other Side of Thanks

We all know how great it is to be thanked for doing something well—to be recognized for a job well done. And yes, it's important to thank people for doing the job that's expected, but especially so when people go above and beyond.

Some companies are legendary for excellent Customer Service: Nordstroms, LL Bean, Zappo's—each of us knows some that are consistently attentive, responsive, and courteous, and who understand what we are looking for in the way of service.

And each of us also probably has a list of those whose Customer Service is consistently abysmal, whose policies are byzantine and unfriendly, and whose "Customer Service Representatives" are there more to protect policies and assets then they are to help customers with issues or expedite refunds or replacements. We generally know enough to complain loudly when we are up against such a company, and it's important to do so.

But there's another side. We—equally loudly, I believe, need to sing the praises not only of the companies who do a great job, but of individuals who do a great job. That way, we are rewarding them for getting it right—whether they work for a great company or not—and we also bring to the attention of the company, large or small, the kind of service we expect.

Here are some ideas:

  • Next time you get great service in a restaurant, tip a little extra, sure, but also make the shift manager or owner aware of the excellent service you received.
  • When you get "above and beyond" service on the phone, ask for the contact information of the representative's supervisor, so you can send a thank you. If they won't give you that, do a Web search and get as high up the organization as possible to give kudos.
  • Sing the company's praises on Social Media such as Twitter and Facebook; or say that you ran into an individual at that company who exceeded your expectations.
Get good service on the radar, no matter whether it comes from a company that's known for it or not, and we can get Customer Service on more agendas at more companies.

Give it some thought.