Customer Service: Invest Yourself

Put the words, “Average”, “Good” and “Poor” in order from left to right with the best word on the right. My guess is that you listed these words in this combination: “Poor”, “Average” and “Good”. Am I correct? It’s pretty easy for us to see how these three words distinguish themselves from each other and so ordering them is easy.

However, if I expanded on the three words and the list included: “Superior”, “Outstanding”, “Excellent” and “Great”, I suspect the order would become less obvious. Now you might say that these four additional words are all so positive that their order becomes less important; that if you got any of these words on a report card for example, you’d be thrilled. Would you be happiest with, “Good” on your school report card or would, “Excellent” make you prouder?

Suppose we’re not talking about report cards here; suppose we’re talking about your performance evaluation at work; or we’re talking about what customers are saying when they evaluate your level of customer service. Would you be satisfied with, “You’re doing a good job”, if you overheard your supervisor telling a co-worker they were doing an “outstanding job”? Wouldn’t part of you say, “I was happy until I learned my co-worker got higher praise; I’d like my boss to tell me I’m doing an outstanding job too”?

If honest, I’m willing to bet that most of us would prefer to be identified as doing outstanding work vs. doing just an average job. However, in order to be ranked or evaluated as, “outstanding”, it takes more effort and a commitment to excellence. At the mention of extra commitment and more effort, a significant number of people will immediately think and say, “Am I going to get paid more to provide this outstanding service? I’m not? Well then you get what you pay for, so no, I’ll just continue to provide average – good service thank you very much.”

The people who think this way and act this way are externally motivated; in this case by money. The irony is that while they feel unfairly treated by employers for being pushed to provide excellent service for the same wages, when they become consumers themselves, they will mutter about poor customer service they receive, or take to social media and spread the stories of mediocre, poor or even average service. “Don’t shop at such-and-such store, the staff there do their job but nothing more. You’ll be treated much better at such-and-such store. Where did great customer service go?” Go figure.

Now it shouldn’t come as a surprise that employers seek out applicants in the interview selection process who have a history of providing outstanding service. The questions they ask are designed to give the applicant the opportunity to share some examples of their customer service in order that the interviewer can eventually select the person or people who will be the best of the best. So they’ll ask questions such as: “What does customer service excellence mean to you?”, or “Tell me about a time you went above and beyond to provide great customer service.” Even a question such as, “Give us an example of when you turned an angry customer into a happy customer” serves this purpose. The best answers to these questions are given by people who provide concrete, specific examples rather than vague generalities.

Now I can already hear a least one of my regular readers saying, “But in my job, I had to stick to a script, I had to do what I was told; I couldn’t provide exceptional service because that would take extra time and then I’d be disciplined”; or some such response. The people who provide mediocre, average service always have a reason for doing so. “I don’t get paid enough”, “I was just a Cashier”, “I’m just a Mail Carrier”; you can’t expect phenomenal service in the kind of work I did or do.”

Sorry, but yes I can, and yes I do. More importantly, yes employers can and yes employers do. If you want to advance in an organization; why even if you want to keep the job you have – you will do well to provide customer service excellence. Head on over to Youtube and search, “Frank the Cab Driver” and “Fred the Postman” or “Johnny the Bagger”. Each video is about someone who made a personal choice to provide an outstanding level of customer service. You’ll see great people doing ordinary jobs in extraordinary ways. Not one of the three does it because of money; they provide this great service because they themselves are self-motivated and they are invested in their work. They simply thought, “What can I do?” and then acted.

So are you waiting to be told to provide excellent customer service? Ever wonder why some companies thrive while others shut down or relocate? Imagine how a company would thrive if all the employees they hired were self-motivated and provided an outstanding customer service experience. Why can’t this start with you today and every day?


One thought on “Customer Service: Invest Yourself

  1. In call centers there is a very delicate balancing act between giving excellent customer service and adhering to your call handling time and script. You do the best you can. There are times when you would like to do more but if it means going over your assigned call handling time and you do this frequently in order to “go over and above” you will end up being fired. It’s the same in the stores, you go that extra mile for the customer at the peril of losing your job. Too many employers only pay lip service to providing excellent customer service and worship speed as the be all and end all. We have become slaves to machines timing our every move.


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