When it comes to getting service of true quality, times are tough. One of the best gauges of how positive most service interactions are is asking people to recount a recent “remarkable” experience. They are – as likely as not – to tell you a version of this true example:
I was eating at [a well-known] Steakhouse and found the cap of a steak sauce bottle in my loaded baked potato. I told the waiter, and he replaced my potato and was very nice about it. (Note: neither the potato nor any other aspect of the meal was comped by the restaurant).
I challenge you to journal a week’s worth of interactions with people you pay to provide a product or service and come up with more than a few examples of even passably good experiences, defined as including:
1. Interacting with someone who looks and acts as though you’re not interrupting them,
2. Interacting with someone who seems mildly knowledgeable about the service or product,
3. Interacting with someone who seems mildly interested in understanding your need and advising you about best addressing it with their assistance/the help of 4. their product, and
5. From the grab bag: says “thank you” or “you’re welcome” (“no problem” does NOT count), does more than throw your store-bought items in a bag, offers more assistance, or engages in some sort of conversation beyond the transaction.
Why does service suck to almost fantastical levels? To some extent, business consolidation and a shortage of qualified workers plays a role. But I’ve yet to meet a business leader who does not want to create raving fans nor who lacks the understanding that the buyer’s interface with her team is the principal driver of whether they love you or hate you. As consumers, we share in the blame because we too often don’t take the time to provide feedback (in real-time, thorough reviews) and just switch vendors.
I recently moved, requiring me to go through the nightmarish upset of changing internet and entertainment providers. I’d scorch the Earth with the name of the provider I chose if I thought for a second that their ineptitude was unique. I will share the following facts:
1. Their website did not allow me to order their service
2. Their telephone support line required that I provide a phone number for the location, for which I was not able to buy service online… which was impossible
3. I then traveled to a store to buy the service (discovering that those existed by accident)
4. Service installation was scheduled… turns out not correctly… causing a minor delay
5. This it where is gets weird. Over the course of the next month, we had 5 service calls by 3 different technicians, 2 store visits, and approximately 12 hours on the phone and online with people – each one blaming someone else for the fact that TV service and internet didn’t work. I've heard a multitude of potential reasons why things are not working, such as: equipment was faulty, installation was done incorrectly, the router must be bad, the wiring wasn't set up right to support the services, etc.
In each instance, it was proven that a mistake had been made by the provider. They never owned, never offered a rebate, refund, or even an apology. The last tech who came to my house at 8 am on a Sunday (not really a good thing) actually knew what he was doing. I asked him how the company shared knowledge like his. He said they didn’t. I asked him if he would have the opportunity to help teammates benefit from some of what he knew. He thought maybe. So, I implored him to volunteer tips and support as often as he could… that the impact of doing so on his peers, their customers, and on him would be greatly positive.
Of course, I don’t know if he has or if he will… and, not surprisingly, his employer has expressed no interest in learning or doing a better job. They’re a multi-billion dollar enterprise. What could possibly go wrong?
Since they haven’t asked and I need an outlet, here are a FOUR ways you can take advantage of the dearth of even remotely, in-the-vicinity-of-remarkable service and make your business stand out in a good way, rather than being the reason that an unsuspecting customer lost time off of his life raging against how much you suck at doing even a passable job. And now, the keys to impressing, pleasing, and keeping customer satisfaction at an extraordinary level:
Hire and grow people who give a S%$@.
This actually is easier than it sounds. You don’t have to use profanity, but you do have to ask them to describe what they’ve done in any aspect of their lives to demonstrate this sensibility and ability.
Allow your people to solve problems.
Increasingly, “service” is attempted through having representatives read scripts back to you rather than listening, asking relevant questions (which, by the way, should not include asking for the last for digits of my SSN for the 7th time on the same call), and using expert systems and notes to figure out how to be helpful.
I am sure that the challenges I encountered trying to get cable installed are far from unique. Unfortunately, corporate feedback systems typically focus on gathering affirmation, not information. How many of you have been asked in a restaurant if “everything is excellent?” That’s not a serious question, nor one designed for much else than the response of “sure.” Have the guts to inquire in ways that invite reinforcement of what the customer is responding well to and how we can do even better.
Show genuine appreciation.
It’s not hard and costs nothing to be polite. Welcome customers, focus on them, and say freakin’ THANK YOU. Without the interest and commerce of that person, you don’t have a job. And that
I’ve given you one of the world’s easiest assignments for ensuring that your organization stands out in a positive way.
Do you choose to accept it – or do you prefer to languish in the depths of the “others” – those who can’t be bothered to act like what they do and how they do it matters?
The life of your business may hang in the balance. The length of my life surely does!