photo © 2003 Gwen | more info (via: Wylio)Customer service. Technical support. Customer care. Customer relationship management. CRM. Call it what you will, we all hear a lot about how important it is to care for our customers. It makes companies more profitable, more efficient, happier places to work, and will improve the taste of whatever you have for dinner tonight. Loving your customers is the Heinz ketchup of business strategies.
But just like anything that gets bottled and pushed out in huge quantities, some of the flavor may just seem to get stale or tired sometimes. There is some kind of strange aftertaste that slips in there all too often, and we feel like we haven’t so much been cared for as we have been read a script and given a formula. That’s why, every now and then, we give an extra-large tip to a waitress, or rave about a product in a blog or just in a conversation with some friends. Yes, customer service is great, but ultimately we want it to be genuine. We want to believe that we actually do matter to the company taking our money. Basic manners and getting the order right are not remarkable; that’s just an expected part of dealing with any company. Someone is polite, or gives you clear directions, or even helps you solve a problem. Any of those are great. They really are. But they should never be considered as remarkable. They should be fully expected every single time we deal with a company. And the fact that they do come as surprises or treats when we see them is proof that this very basic concept of customer service has lost something.
In a perfect world, customer service would be no more of a strategy than hugging a husband or wife would be. We would care for customers because we liked them and saw them as friends and wanted them to be happy. Similarly, customers would be happy to deal with us because we both gave and received respect and smiles in generous amounts. Crazily enough, none of this would even need to be written into employee training manuals or taught by customer service consultants or programmed into expensive CRM software. It would just happen because work and life went better that way. Customer service would be the corporate Coca-Cola.
But sadly, that’s not the world we live in. Some people are wonderfully kind, giving and genuine and… some are not. But each of us in our own spheres of influence still get to make our own choices about whether we will smile or scowl. We get to decide every time we pick up the phone or greet someone whether we will be genuine or forced, or even downright rude. As much as other people may choose the moods that they’re in, we still choose the responses we give.
A happy smile will indeed usually still bring forth another happy smile in return, a less stressful day, and yes even a bigger tip.
And between friends… that’s a nice way to be.