Is Customer Service DEAD?
Could it be my advancing years? Have I become an old pain in the ass? Do I expect too much from my service providers and the businesses I frequent as a customer? All of the above are possibilities. So with that preamble serving as a disclaiming framework, please track with me here.
My wife and I are changing business accounts because of a breach in customer service. Too often, we faced "who told you that?" with the bank and are fed up. My Japanese luxury car (which is under warranty) refuses to connect my iPhone through the Bluetooth system...I know, a first world problem...but I cannot seem to get anyone's attention at my dealership. We recently returned from the PPAI show in Las Vegas, the largest promo ad trade show in the world. Countless booth vendors seemed more interested in making out with their mobile devices than engaging the REAL customers that ambled by.
I grew up in a Mayberry RFD ilk burg in an early Mad Men era...as a matter of fact, Don Draper's character reminds me of my Dad in lots of ways. There were folks with whom you "traded" because their reputation was spotless, their product or service was delivered at a fair price with the promise to "make things right" if they weren't. If a local business was beneath the expected level of service OR heaven forbid, ripped you off, the business simply perished...for generations. I was painfully reminded of this recently by my Mom during a visit. I encountered a guy I knew in the seventies and proceeded to catch up on things that had occurred since the Carter administration. When I returned to our table, my Mom asked why I was talking to that shyster? Hmmm...what I later learned was that one of my buddy's forefathers possessed a questionable reputation. That "rep" had transcended the generations. ALL because of POOR customer service...FIFTY years ago! You now understand Romeo and Juliet, the Hatfields and McCoys, Westside Story, etc. A rift from prior eons.
Flash forward. In our world of instant feedback (doubt it, check a Yelp review of your favorite restaurant OR tweet a bad experience with #________), VIDEO cameras in every pocket, and virtually EVERY merchant with an on-line presence, I believe CUSTOMER SERVICE is more important than EVER. Some in the commercial real estate world would argue that we have "clients", not "customers". My question is...in this context, does it really matter? I would offer that with a "client"...that connotes a level of care as well as service...the SERVICE we provide is essential.
So what's next? I would suggest this simple change in the way we approach our business. Treat EVERY encounter...tweet, email, post, phone call, meeting, letter, smoke signal...as though the person on the sending end is reviewing your EVERY move! Because, after all, they probably are! You wouldn't want your grandchildren to pay the price for your poor customer service would you?
By: Allen Buchanan
Principal | Lee & Associates
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