If you read last week’s column, I talked about the striking difference in Mr. Shmooze type customer service at the front desk of a top hotel. One person started presenting me with problems to solve, while the other person interrupted and solved all my problems by simply saying, “I will take care of it.” Here is another one . . . but not to be redundant . . . I will follow with some new thoughts.
I went to the airport yesterday. I printed my ticket. I used mileage for a first class seat (important to me . . . I am 6’6”). The ticket gave me a coach seat. I went to the counter and the lady there could not help me. She called the awards department.
The lady there said that their agent had made a mistake giving me the first class seat since none were actually available at the mileage I had paid. I obviously said, “That’s too bad, I am already here at the desk, ready to go, so just give me another first class seat (which was open) and I can be on my way.” She said that while there were indeed other first class seats available, I would have to double my mileage. I asked for the supervisor. After ten minutes on hold, the supervisor, a rude woman who interrupted me at every turn, read strictly from a script and held the party line. So there I was . . . a loyal, platinum, frequent flyer with 4 million miles on my card . . . and the people I spoke to were argumentative, rude and would not help me solve for their mistake. Here is my point.
Back in the late 1970’s Japan began to eat our lunch with a higher level of quality control processes (which they had actually learned, in large part, from American advisors). They began to take huge market share in a variety of industries. It took some time, but American companies responded by hiring their own advisors and starting to take quality control and quality service very seriously. The result was a magnificent Renaissance in American manufacturing and service, with many, many companies providing a much more consistent level of quality and customer experience.
Unfortunately, things have regressed. Cost cutters have taken ahold of the process and so called innovation in the form of technology that, in many cases, corrupts rather than enhances the customer experience (automated phone prompts and the like). The result is a serious breach in the relationship between service provider and customer, as companies charge for endless technicalities, cut costs to the bone and, when a problem does come up, take the authority to work with a customer out of the customer service representative’s hands (if the person can even speak the same language fluently).
Opportunity is always the child of adversity. Sales and customer service are very close cousins . . . often they are both part of our jobs as salespeople. I have not seen a greater opportunity to differentiate your products/services by re-emphasizing customer service in 35 years. Market share is truly available to companies who get back to the customer service basics. We are all trying to apply Mr. Shmooze type principals and techniques to maximize our customer relationships from the sales side . . . service must be equally passionate to complete the mission.
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