Thursday, September 18, 2008

Customer Service: A department or a way of life?

As I was making my way around the world of small business blogs, I saw a post on Small Biz Survival that caught my eye. In it, the writer describes how a trainer was working with a trainee at a big box office supply store, ostensibly teaching him how to handle his customer-facing job at that retailer. The trouble is, the trainer completely ignored the customer in order to go into the finer points of how to offer tech services. In other words, rather than taking the opportunity to teach the trainee how “our customers are our most important asset” the trainer instead chose to focus on some arcane computer procedure.

It’s really kind of a funny perspective. The reason it caught my eye, of course, is how much effort we at Protus put in to our customer service. It’s one of the things that draws the highest praise from customers who have to use it. Often, they seem shocked that it’s so attentive and their issues are resolved so quickly. I guess in the technology space in particular the expectation is getting into a Battle Royale, followed by the opportunity to meet three or four new people over the phone before anything is resolved.

In my daily life, I’m amazed how many companies simply don’t get it. They will list a “customer service” number, but when you call it you find it leads to a phone tree that seems to have been designed by the same people who create those Sudoku puzzles. When you finally do make your way through the maze, you’re met by someone reading a script, who is more clueless about the product or service you’re calling about than you are. It’s only after getting belligerent and practically squeezing your phone to dust that they finally get you to someone who can help. It’s almost like running a gambit – you have to earn the right to speak with someone who actually knows what’s going on by first making your way through an army of minions.

Worse are the live ones – the service providers who ignore your questions, or the people in stores who are more interested in folding the sweaters than helping you find what you want. It’s like they view you, the customer, as an inconvenience instead of the reason they have a job.

That’s just not right. “Customer service” has to be more than a department or a marketing slogan. It has to be an approach to doing business. I’m proud to work for a company that still understands that, and borders on being obsessed with making sure customers are happy. Too bad that way of thinking seems to have gone out of style.

Have a cusotmer support story, good or bad? I'd love to hear it!

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