After two back-to-back experiences last week I had to ask myself,
"Is there such a thing as too much customer service?"
Raise your hand if you would consider yourself busy most of the time. (Okay, youre too busy to raise your hand). If you're that busy, you couldn't possibly have time to be reading this post. Reality check, we are all busy and our time is valuable. This article isn't about the billions of dollars spent by companies in the name of "convenience" to get the customer through the line quicker or make money faster. Quite the opposite. I'm talking about customer service. The actual "Business" part of doing business. The interaction between seller and consumer.
Wikipedia's definition of customer service is this:
Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase. The perception of success of such interactions is dependent on employees "who can adjust themselves to the personality of the guest".
It wouldn't be courteous to name names in this blog post but I recently had two customer service experiences that left me thinking about the value of customer service. Bakersfield is a "big" small town and dependent on the relationships between business owners, customers and employees. And most of the time you only have one opportunity to make a first impression. So this had me thinking about when customer service is either deficient or crosses the line. Many big box retail stores have virtually no service in the store. No one to help when you need it and if you do find someone, chances are they are of little help. On the flip side there are businesses that are so focused on getting their message across that it takes more time to overload the customer with all their specials and offers and news and "would you like to donate to this" and the "are you a member of this or that" than it would have actually taken to complete the transaction. There is a sweet spot for providing the perfect balance of customer service and value that has to be respected and maintained. In my teens I worked for a local hardware store that was a family owned and operated business. To this day I still hear from customers that wish they could still get the customer service they received at the hardware store, at more businesses around town.
Some internet reading and published studies showed that overall, customers love companies that are easy to do business with. That means that customers are more likely to return and remain loyal to a supplier or company that makes the transaction easy and convenient.
When it comes time to check out at the register or complete the transaction, it seems just about every major retailer has a "Loyalty" program they want you to sign up for. And each of those companies offers their own line of credit they are asking you to sign up for. And then there is the survey they want you to sign up for. Who wants all that? Just make the customer experience easy and do it well and the customers will return. In respect of the customers time, a long and exhaustive introduction as you answer the phone or drive up to the window can give the impression that the customers time is less valuable than the company they are trying to do business with. The scripted dialogue makes the interaction (even the first impression) less personal.
Talk and listen to the customer. The customer service experience has to be dynamic. Reciting the canned response for every customer is not customer service. Although the employee may have good intentions, a trained parrot isn't what the customer wants the 3rd, 4th, 5th time they are doing business with this company. Some customers who want to get in and out, will be short with responses. Good customer service means picking up on these cues and helping the customer complete the transaction as efficiently and as hassle free as possible. When a customer engages in conversation, or the opportunity arises in a transaction to share what the company has to offer, then this is the time to do so. The worth of customer service can measured in the customer satisfaction. Respective of the customer, providing good value and service when its needed. Thanking the customer for the business. Accepting that each customer is different will make the customer service experience unique.
That same internet search on customer service yielded page after page of customer service stories gone wrong. There are so may metrics and studies on the cost of keeping a customer, what it costs to earn a new customer and all too often how to re-acquire a customer that has left. But a simple approach to doing business in a "human" way that is live and in the moment is what the customer really wants and will keep them coming back. And its these interactions that create relationships. And as relationships are built so is loyalty. The measurement can be taken when you realize your business is the business that all the competitors are trying to copy.
For a truly unique and personal customer service experience, your only choice in Bakersfield can be Sparkle. Sparkle is the only provider that can offer this level of customer service. Our family owned and operated plant is one of a kind and we do uniform and linen rental better than any one else in our area. Our loyal customers have said so, just check out our testimonial page.