Customer Service – The Lost Art Consumer Goods and Services

Customer service. By all rights the general public should clearly understand its definition. However, I am constantly reminded every time I wonder into the world of consumer goods and services that it seems to have become a thing of the past.

Here is the problem: People own businesses, they hire employees to help run their business, however they neglect to make sure that these people they hire will in fact represent them in the best possible way to their customers. Teaching employees to run the register, wait tables, schedule appointments, execute sales, whatever the job duties are, is not enough! In today’s economy and our never-ending push for higher educated employees has overshadowed the need for old fashioned customer service. What some employers assume as common sense or minimal courtesy their employees lack. Make sure your employees don’t.

If you run a business, no matter what your product or service is, you should be looking for customers, not just sales. Here is a personal example of what a lack of customer service can do.

I went to a local mall and stopped at the “pretzel” place for a pretzel and smoothie. I understand the one and only employee was making pretzel sandwiches for the one and only other customer in the place, but I stood at the counter for 7 minutes while she made their sandwiches and smoothies (including rinsing out the blender) before she even acknowledge I was standing there. Now honestly, how difficult was it to turn her head around and say “I’ll be right with you”? I ordered my pretzel because, heck, I’d been standing there that long anyway, but will I go back? Probably not, cause now in my mind “their customer service stinks!” See, one time, one thing can make a huge difference. Now how many people will I refer there? None. I wont go out of my way to inhibit patrons of the little shop, but I certainly wont offer it up as a suggestion for anyone.

Somehow today minimum wage translates into “I don’t get paid enough to go that extra mile for the customer.” Its just a job right? Not if you are the owner! We have all heard our parents or grandparents tell the dreaded stories of how they walked 2 miles uphill (both ways) to buy a nickel loaf of bread when they were younger. At the risk of sounding like my grandparents, I remember driving 20 miles for $3.35 an hour to work at a service desk, taking returns and complaints all day and I loved it. Now society has such a sense of entitlement that they think they deserve $7-8 per hour to text on their cell phone and talk over your head to the cashier behind you about what they are doing Friday night!

Having said all this, my next question to you is “how do we make it better?” We demand that it be better. We tell our local business owners when we stand in line without being acknowledged, we ask for supervisors, we phone or email. I, as a business owner would WANT to know if my employees have deterred customers for being repeat customers. You can follow up with customers, offer customer service surveys, and have customer service trainings for your employees. Many business consultants offer on site customer service training for a lot less that it would cost you if you lost a customer. It may be YOUR business, but your employees can have every bit as much influence on your customers as you do, sometimes more.

In the era of fast paced, high tech, ever evolving businesses, one thing should stay consistent and that is old fashioned upstanding customer service.