The 2020 Mid-Year Economic Update_long

Operations Q&A: Who Would You Rather Emulate?

There are many ways to approach customer service.
LeeSchwartz

Question: Who would you rather emulate?

Answer: Every day of our lives we have many customer service experiences. At work, we have encounters with vendors, suppliers and the like. Personally, it's the online purchases we make or the stop heading into work for a morning cup of coffee.

Each experience is different and lays the foundation for whether we will return another time, because we have choices. I want to share two very distinct experiences reported in the news that might represent the extremes of good versus bad customer service.

I mention the cup of coffee above. I suspect that caused many of you to think of Starbucks. Imagine rolling into a Starbucks needing that morning fix only to be told that “an internal computer system failure” occurred and your order could not be processed. That happened recently. While some stores closed, others remained open, offering coffee at no charge. As one patron offered: “I’m not going to complain about a free cup of coffee.”

Now let’s flip to the dark side. An 83-year-old retiree living on $1,530 monthly Social Security checks was accustomed to paying AT&T $51 a month for Internet access. Imagine how startled he was when a bill arrived for over $8,000. He called to complain.

A tech visit was scheduled; no one showed. The next bill made the first appear tiny – over $15,000. He called AT&T again. A tech arrived and blamed the problem on the modem in his house. A service rep said they would do nothing about the charges. The money was owed. All $24,000.

Ultimately, the charges were dropped … coincidentally only after an advocate from the LA Times called AT&T to complain. But we can only imagine the aggravation that this poor soul experienced.

Bottom Line: There are plenty of definitions for customer service. Here is one I came across that I like: “Customer Service is a function of how well an organization is able to constantly and consistently exceed the needs of the customer” – the operative word being “exceed.”

What do your customers think about your company’s customer service? Are their needs exceeded? At a very least, are they met? Keep in mind that everyone has a choice. You have competitors from which your customers can buy the same product. Or in today’s world, there are online options providing the same or very similar products in hours versus days.

Customers are to be valued. Once lost, they likely are gone for good. Do what you can to emulate the best of breed, like Starbucks, to help your company retain these valuable customer relationships.

I welcome your commentsat lee@schwartzpro.com.

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