Great customer service is underrated. In fact, I believe it should be revered, especially in a sales environment, and a lot of us are in sales of some sort.
I run a professional services firm, so the pressure is always on, but I learned this lesson working in restaurants. Consumers of goods and services are largely self-serving in nature. We want what we want when and how we want it. And when we want what we want and it does not arrive when we want it, we feel annoyed, asking why our “request” was not delivered.
Often the delta between good customer service and a “great” customer experience comes down to problem solving. We want to work with people who “get it.” We want people who, in our time of need, are there for us, regardless of the size or nature of the need.
My wife and I recently dealt with a car dealership that failed to get it. We initiated the process to buy my wife’s car as the lease was expiring, and we sent a certified check in mid-January to the company, along with the required paperwork. The leasing company gave two options to deliver the paperwork for its lease buyouts: “snail mail” and fax. Fax. There is a word not likely to be included in a column about “great” customer service and problem solving.
Since the (unnamed) car-financing entity was generally unhelpful, I reached out to the salesman at the dealership who leases my wife a car every three years. Surely, the dealership would want our continued ownership experience to be a good one, or so we hoped. We know it is not the dealership’s problem. We know there is a separation between what it does on the sales side and what another entity does with the paperwork, but I needed some guidance and was out of options.
I remember a reference from the TV show “The West Wing,” where the fictional White House chief of staff tells another team member a story to illustrate a similar point:
“This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out. A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, ‘Hey, you. Can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, ‘Father, I’m down in this hole. Can you help me out?’ The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. ‘Hey, Joe, it’s me. Can you help me out?’ And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, ‘Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.’ The friend says, ‘Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.’”
Sometimes we have opportunities where we just need to help people find the way out, regardless of whether it is “our job” or not. We all deal with plenty of problems that are not ours, but we can step up and run a problem, albeit minor sometimes when put into perspective against many other things in life, to the ground.
No one likes to be left hanging. Reputations matter, brands matter, and companies have an implied obligation to aid their clients and customers. If you can be a friend, be a friend. It comes down to caring, especially when we are talking about repeat business and the process to generate hard-earned revenue, though sometimes the “hard-earned” part is the hurdle in the equation.•
Rateike is founder and owner of BAR Communications and served as director of cabinet communications for President Donald Trump. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here for more Forefront columns.