Is customer service dead?
Do we have a right to whinge and moan when the service we’re paying for is substandard? Is good customer service a thing of the past as more organisations move to cost-saving national call centres to deal with enquiries? And what makes us return time and again to our favourite brands? Lauren Hardy guest blogs…
A recent series of experiences at a local café has made me question exactly what constitutes good customer service in the eyes of the consumer. Is it simply service with a smile? Watching your Ps and Qs? Exceeding expectations?
We have a couple of in-house cafes at work, designed to provide food, refreshments and meeting places for staff. Poor customer service is blighting one of the cafes and gaining it a reputation which is making me, for one, avoid it like the plague.
As a paying customer, I don’t appreciate being ignored in favour of a gossip or having the price of my order barked at me with no sign of a please or thank you. I similarly don’t like having someone huffing when I ask to have a jacket potato that doesn’t resemble a dried up turd or when I request the juicy slice of bacon instead of the shrivelled piece of leather they’re about to put in my sandwich.
As a customer parting with money, should I not have the right to choose what I spend it on? And as part of the service industry, is it not the role of staff to offer a pleasant and friendly service to their paying customers?
This got me thinking about why these particular elements of the encounters I’ve had with the café staff make the experience bad, and thus thinking about instances of good customer service and what it was that made these good.
The examples are limited, to be honest, but the ones that exist go all the way to making me feel like a valued customer and a customer who will return to that retailer/restaurant/service again and again and recommend them to people I know.
My first candidate is Starbucks; some love it, many hate it. I am a big fan, it has to be said, purely because I like the coffee and the staff are always friendly, ready to serve and offer suggestions on new things to try. That alone is enough to make me happy. But recently when they got my order wrong they apologised, corrected it and gave me a voucher for a free coffee on my next visit. This may seem insignificant, and perhaps an apology and correction would have sufficed, but this made my shopping experience with Starbucks pleasant. And the way in which they went above and beyond what I expected made me feel like my customer experience really mattered. I’ll continue to shop there because I feel they deserve my money and loyalty.
Another brand I find always excels in customer service is the old faithful John Lewis. In-store staff are always attentive, ready to help and importantly are knowledgeable about what they’re selling. They approach you to offer their assistance, will order an item if it’s not in-stock and do this all with a smile; very important. And having recently experienced their wedding list service I can honestly say that through-and-through John Lewis is a brand that has a polished and efficient customer service regime. My personal contacts at the store dealt with all my queries and requests efficiently and, although a national company, I was always able to reach someone in the wedding list service at my local store; so these were people I had met, knew me and my fiancé, and who saw to our every need personally. Completely the reverse of other department stores which have cut costs by providing one central call centre with none of the warmth or familiarity of talking to a named person at a local branch.
This leads me on to call centres, which are a big bug bear of mine. If I can do anything face-to-face with a company, I will. I hate having to ring someone I’ve never spoken to before and explain time and time again what the query or issue is, never to speak to that same person again. So another of my pleasant experiences has been with Trailfinders – the tailor-made travel agency.
A national company with agencies across the UK, Trailfinders’ website encourages you to contact your LOCAL branch, where you will be able to deal with a named person from start to finish. A named person who, if you go to your local branch in person, you can meet face-to-face. Great. And they have a simple service which recognises your number when you call them so, as a customer, you’re greeted by someone who knows your name and background, can see who you’ve previously dealt with, and can put you through to that person or get them to call you back so you can continue to liaise with someone who is familiar with you and your needs as a customer.
These are only my personal opinions of what has felt like good customer service. What’s important to you as a customer?
Posted: April 2010