It's official, Customer Service is dead! We can estimate the time of passing to be somewhere within the latter half of 2016 or perhaps even earlier; some would say as early as 2014.

This may be rather bold to proclaim but allow some of my personal experiences to paint a picture and illustrate my point:

 

  • On the phone with the Lost Luggage department of a popular Toronto based ‘Sunny Destination’ airline, I asked if the attendant could tell me why they hadn’t loaded my luggage onto a plane for the second day in a row. The response I got was, “That is not my job!”…
  • Receiving a tray of coffees at a drive-thru, one of the cups spilt all over my hand and wrist. When I asked the attendant for more napkins to wipe my hand, I was told, “Well it’s not my fault! I made sure the lids were on tight.”…
  • A world renowned manufacturer and retailer of smartphones refused to answer my question on a call with their help line because the warranty on 1 of my 3 devices had expired…
  • Calling a local business head office, I mispronounced the name of the person I was looking to speak with, to which point the receptionist cut me off and assaulted me with questions about the nature of my call, then started to read me the policy on how they deal with ‘calls of this nature’, only to hang up on me.

Any of this sounds familiar? I know I’m not alone. These are just small examples of how some front line employees engage with customers. In my humble opinion, these instances clearly demonstrate that customer care was not the top priority, but hey, what do I know? I’m just a customer.

 

Have you noticed the alarming number of organizations that have moved their Customer Service function overseas under the guise of ‘cost effectiveness’? Yet another piece of resounding evidence that Customer Service has died. The basic message here is that customer service is low enough on the list of priorities that it’s outsourced just to save some money.  A truly customer-centric organization actually invests more money into retaining and developing their customer service in-house because it is such an important aspect of the company culture.

 

Taking Action

Companies are hiding behind technology and choose to no longer give Customer Service the attention that it deserves. It’s important to remember that Customer Service is not a set of policies or rules, nor should it be viewed as administrative overhead to deal with customer complaints and enquiries. Customer Service is really about taking action; looking ahead one step further and improving the overall Customer Experience.

 

When a customer-first approach is taken seriously and adopted as ‘the way we do things’, it permeates through the culture of a company and can have very positive effects:

 

  1. Employees are focused on doing their jobs well vs just doing their jobs. It’s a big difference and a dream of many employers and managers. If your team is empowered to deliver outstanding customer service, they will go above and beyond the call of duty.
  2. Creates a collaborative culture. The hallmark of many great teams is collaboration. Delivering outstanding Customer Service means different people and different business units working together. United under a common goal of delivering the best in service, the collaboration level naturally increases.
  3. You cultivate customer loyalty. Consumers buy from brands they trust and businesses love repeat customers.

 

A Glimmer of Hope

Some organizations truly understand the concept of instilling ‘Customer Engagement’ within their work environments. A great example is Starbucks, where their brand is all about the experience, creating an atmosphere and environment that is unique and service that is focused on personalization. Even when a barista drops the ball, (or the latte) their staff are quick to rectify the situation, no complaining required.

 

Customer horror stories of recent experiences on flights with United Airlines and Delta are absolutely cringe-worthy. And then there’s WestJet, an airline that has built their entire company culture and operations on providing outstanding Customer Service. From retrieving and returning forgotten items to ordering pizza for stranded passengers, WestJetters have even literally saved lives, both human and animal!

 

If only all businesses would strive for such excellence the way Starbucks and WestJet have. The good news is that more and more companies across a plethora of industries are beginning to see the value of the customer ‘experience’ and the correlation between happy customers and sustainable profits. And it all starts with service. Companies who put their customers first will win!

 

Have you had an awful encounter with a brand that delivered terrible customer service? What about an outstanding experience? Please feel free to connect with Paresh Mistry on LinkedIn!