August 2011 Customer Disservice
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Customer Disservice

By Steve Strauss. ARCHIVE:

Customer service is one of the most overused phrases in business, so much so that it has practically become trite. Real customer service must be more than simply mouthing, or incorporating into a mission statement, the phrase "the customer is always right." (For one, the customer isn't always right.) Actual customer service must be more than simply reiterating a hackneyed phrase; to mean something, it must relate to specific actions to take, and not take.

Here then are my Five Sins of Customer Disservice

1. Never Put Phone Calls Ahead of Real Customers: How often has this happened to you? You patiently wait in line some place, you get to the front, you catch someone's attention, and then the phone behind the counter rings. All of a sudden, the phone call has become more important than you and it takes precedence over your issue.

When this happens to me these days, I refuse to accept it. I kindly tell the employee that I was there before the phone caller. But it shouldn't have to get to that point. Real people who patronize your business in person are almost always most important than looky loo phone callers. Make sure that your employees know that and are taught to treat your actual customers with the respect that they deserve.

2. Accept no Nopeys. Growing up, one of my favorite cartoons was Gumby. Gumby had a pal named Nopey. No matter what you said to him, no matter what you asked him, Nopey's answer was "No!"

Too many employees try to flex their muscle by saying no. It seems to give them power, or at least a sense of power. But great harm can come from the Nopey employee. They are the ones who anger already unhappy customers and they are the ones who turn customers into ex-customers.

For instance, just last week, I was in a take-out restaurant. Instead of the two side dishes that came with the meal that I didn't want, I asked for a cup of soup instead. The counter person said no. I explained that the one cup of soup cost less than the two side dishes. He still said no. I now say no when my wife says we should go there again.

3. Do Not Be a Strict Constructionist. In the law, a strict constructionist is one who says that laws and policies do not evolve, that the document as written must be strictly interpreted.

While that might be a valid legal argument, it makes for poor customer relations. Sometimes the smartest choice is to bend policy and make an exception. The customer will remember it, and your business will probably not be harmed by it.

4. Never Accept Bad Manners: Your customers should not be thanking you, you should be thanking them. Common courteously and good manners can go far towards leaving your customers with a good impression of your business.
5. Do Not Your Customers for Granted: While seemingly obvious, it is nevertheless critical to remember that loyal customers are loyal only to a point, and that the second they feel unappreciated, their loyalty will be a distant memory. So make sure your best customers know they are special and are treated that way.