Let’s talk about customer service. It’s something we have all experienced, and I’m guessing you know when you’ve received excellent, mediocre or poor service.
When we’re on the receiving end, I feel pretty confident is saying we all hope to be treated and served by knowledgeable, friendly people in a respectful and helpful manner. No one I know intentionally seeks out help from those who are likely to provide inferior service. So it’s clear that during and after our interactions, most of us can tell what makes an experience excellent, mediocre or poor. It is surprising then that while we can easily identify levels of service in others, employers often say it is difficult finding people who both know what customer service excellence means and who provide it. So is it that some people make a conscious choice not to provide the best service possible?
Maybe the secret is in the job titles. Some job titles make it clear that customer service skills are tied to the position; Customer Service Representatives, Customer Relations or Client Services positions. We would expect to find customer service skills first and foremost if we looked at job postings like these. Further, we would not only expect to see that customer service skills are essential to the jobs; we’d expect a superior level of customer service would be insisted upon by the employer.
With other job titles such as Caretaker, Teacher, Paramedic, Butcher or Florist, customer service skills don’t immediately come to mind when thinking about the required or desired skills for the people who hold them. However, providing customer service excellence in these roles can be the difference between excelling in the job and possibly losing it. The specific technical skills of course are paramount requirements no matter the career or job. Yet some people are so focused on the technical skill requirements, they neglect to hone or improve upon their customer service skills.
Now it’s not good enough to tell yourself, “Treat others as you’d like to be treated”, because not all of us have similar expectations when it comes to how we’d like to be treated. For example, you might be happy with a Florist that asks what flowers you want, arranges them and sells them to you. However, someone else might expect to have the Florist make suggestions, provide tips on keeping flowers looking their best longer, and offer to wrap them both in clear plastic and a protective outer wrapping if the weather is cooler so they don’t spoil. Depending on the person, either Florist might be judged to provide good customer service.
What is it though that separates customer service excellence from good customer service? I believe it is tied to having the people you serve walk away having had a memorable experience. It is because we have come to expect good customer service that it really doesn’t stand out when we receive it; it simply meets our expectations. When service exceeds our expectations, it becomes memorable; and by association so do the people who deliver the customer service excellence.
If employed, think about the job you do now. If you are insufficiently motivated to perform your job well, this entire piece is probably lost on you unfortunately. Not interested in providing even good customer service, it’s highly improbable you’ll see the payoff in putting in the effort to excel. You might defend your average service by saying that increases in salary aren’t tied to great service so why bother? You may even lament that the employer frowns upon doing more so sticking to a script is all you can do. Well I respectfully disagree.
Look, you’re at this job of yours for 7 or 8 hours a day; you may even be with your co-workers more than you are your family. So if you’re spending all this time in a job day after day, week after week, why not throw yourself into the job with enthusiasm and make your experience there the best it can be? What is it YOU can do that will stand out in a positive way, and make the experience of those that you come into contact with truly memorable?
I recall one time I went to get my hair cut and was initially disappointed that the Stylist wanted to cut my hair first and wash it afterward. “Isn’t that backwards?” I said. She told me that she always washes it last to remove all the fine hairs so they don’t fall on my clothes, and the scalp massage that happens during the wash is a nice way to end the haircut. Now I insist on this all the time. It feels great and I think of her every time I head out for a haircut. She became memorable and I return to where she works and hope for her every time.
On a personal note, I have a co-worker I’ve known for years. Late last year they said something to me that resonated and stays with me. “You’re the best of us. You’re always doing more, you’re so positive and you put in so much effort. I envy you. You’re awesome man!” The way I go about my job delivering customer service has made me memorable and I’m grateful for and humbled by his supportive words.
Make customer service a daily priority as many of us do and you’ll be memorable too!