Thought Pieces


Customer service has recently become the hot topic in the business world. CEOs rank customer service as the most important priority after growth, according to a 2016 Gartner CEO Survey in the USA.

They want their people to deliver faster and smarter service with strong personalized options.

Do we need someone to talk to?
Years ago some consultants said the mission should be to delight customers. This always seemed to belong to the world of hopeless idealism when so few expectations were being met in the first place. Many of us would have been delighted if someone answered the phone and spoke understandable English.

Some CEOs concluded the problem with poor customer service was people. Jack Welch the former GE supremo, for one, yearned for the end of the human interface, whilst Jeff Bezos whose logistics operation at Amazon is hard to match said: “The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works”.

That’s all very well but sometimes you need to talk and the best talkers are those used to talking not those dragged unwillingly from their desk where they’ve been processing data.

Think of the customer service that you get
Where great customer service comes into its own is in hotels, when travelling and out of touch, when you are buying or selling a house, from your insurance company when something nasty happens, from your accountant, from your lawyer, from your bank on the odd occasions an intelligent human being can revive your spirits, from your car dealer and when something goes wrong with an on-line purchase.

Nowadays both customers and providers have a problem (which few customer service experts understand) because a generation of entitlement-educated millennials feel the supplier/customer relationship is in itself demeaning and are unused to dealing with angry customers.

One tip that matters
The usual list of “how-to-do-customer-service” tips don’t help either. But here’s one that does.

“Define what your culture looks like”.

The best management writer ever, Peter Drucker, allegedly said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” What he meant was the emotional aspects of a strategy was what defined its true self. In a business world that has awoken to the primacy of its customers you need to ask if you love and care for your customers or clients.
It really is simple isn’t it?
If your customer or client’s goodwill, good humour and sense of confidence in you isn’t the main thing on your mind you really oughtn’t to be in business in the first place.

When people need more than just service
They need more than service when they are going through a tricky personal situation (like bereavement, marriage break-up or job loss), when they are in a business crisis (start up, sales decline, employee stand-off, legal problem) or when their world is turning upside down (divorce, illness, sale or purchase of something life changing like a new house or career defining like buying or selling a business.)

They especially need unusually attentive service if they are involved in a multimillion pound, dollar or euro deal.

Anyone who suggests doing a deal is easy, as Donald Trump has claimed, is either deluded or thinking back to when things were perhaps a little simpler than they are now.

It’s the “what ifs” that matter; the confidence of being able to navigate through unknown, dangerous waters. People need a guardian of their sanity, a protector of their potentially shattered dreams and a calmly persistent prosecutor of their cause. That’s where service superiority kicks in.

Great client service means having a supporter who believes in you and in whom you yourself believe and completely trust.

It’s more than just service. It’s a life-support system providing a sense of confidence of success. That should be the culture of the provider and that should be the expectation of the client.

Because if you aren’t on your key advisor’s mind morning, noon and night then you probably have the wrong advisor.

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