How long can someone with great customer service instincts work for a company that doesn’t value customer service?
I started thinking about this question the other day after an experience with Comcast involving the exchange of our old, regular cable box for an upgraded one with DVR, as part of the new contract negotiated by our homeowners association.
Letitia sets the customer service standard
A week after installation of the new box, I turned on the TV to see a message on the screen that said the cable box I had was not authorized and an 800 number to call for assistance. Ugh, really? I have to call Comcast for help? Past experience taught me to expect a long hold time. Lo and behold, I did not have a long wait time before Letitia kindly offered to help me.
Despite the fact that the paperwork on the exchange of boxes was never processed and our account was not properly set up to give us DVR access, Letitia spent almost an hour patiently working through things to get everything back online.
It was clear to me that Letitia was committed to helping me, the customer, in whatever way she could, not just because it was her job, but because she really wanted to do the right thing.
Within a large corporation, it seems the entrepreneurial spirit was alive.
I don’t know if company execs encourage this kind of customer service approach or if Letitia is one of those people, like many of us entrepreneurs, who can’t be any other way.
Now, she wouldn’t have been able to provide the service she did without a few essential tools. Employ these ideas and your people supporting your small business can deliver exemplary customer service too:
1. Proper training.
Letitia knew what questions to ask and what steps to take in response to my answers. Make sure your staff has an understanding of the business, the issues that customers might encounter, and the knowledge to fix them.
2. Freedom to do whatever it takes to resolve the situation.
Zappos is well known for giving it’s employees a lot of leeway to do whatever they need to do to make customers happy.
Company CEO Tony Hsieh has been quoted as saying he “doesn’t want to prescribe actions for employees that show how much Zappos cares about customers; (he) wants employees to do things because they genuinely care about customers.” And he gives them the ability to do that.
3. Personal initiative.
Tony’s quote leads directly to this third and most important point about personal initiative. It’s not something you can teach someone; you have to hire it already intact. And if someone doesn’t have it, giving him proper training and decision-making freedom isn’t going to be at all effective for your business.
So back to the original question
Which has now become — does the employee with personal initiative and a genuine desire to help customers stay around and help pull the company up, or does she get frustrated and leave?
The answer is now easy to see.
If you as the business owner are committed to providing an outstanding customer experience, hiring people like Letitia who care about customers and giving them training and freedom, then she’ll stay and contribute to creating an outstanding reputation for your business. And ideally in the process, she can set a great example for her co-workers and feel good about her job.
Valuing your great service agents (and a request)
Do you know of a company – a large or small business – committed to providing a less than remarkable encounter for your customers? If so, please help connect them to this post. Otherwise, if they disregard this advice, the great Letitias in customer service will leave their business soon and view their time there as a lesson in “how not to run a business.”
What’s been your experience in this area?
Have you ever been the one picking up the slack and what eventually happened? Post a comment and let me know.
- Get Elastic and an example of Zappos customer service in action;
- Freakonomics and entrepreneurial initiative in customer service;
- Flying Solo and a great example of service and personal initiative;
- Lori Saitz and her customer service series on Women Grow Business.
Guest contributor Lori Saitz is founder of Zen Rabbit Baking Company. She helps people show appreciation for and give recognition to others. The main (delicious!) tool her team uses to help accomplish this important feat is through The Gratitude Cookie(tm). A thin, crunchy cross between a butter and a sugar cookie, The Gratitude Cookie is so named because if you’re eating the cookies, you’re encouraged to think about something you are grateful for as you munch on each one.
Image We Care A Lot by 35mmMonkey, Creative Commons