Customer service is defined as “(t)he process of ensuring customer satisfaction with a product or service.” [http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/customer-service.asp]
Customer Service Examples
- A patron orders food at a restaurant, the patron is unhappy with the food, a manager comes to the table, the patron’s food is comped (no charge)
- A customer buys a shirt at a store, the customer is unhappy with the shirt, the customer returns the shirt to the store, the purchase is refunded (money returned or full-cost credit handed over)
- A client gets a hair cut, the client is unhappy with the cut, the client complains to the manager, the manager either comps the cut or (more often) ‘makes it right’
What do all of the above interactions have in common? Face-to-face customer service, immediate and handled on the spot.
Is this Customer Service?
A customer arrives at the airport for a flight home from a conference, the flight is delayed, after a 1-2 hour delay the customer is instructed to board the aircraft only to be told s/he will be sitting on the tarmac for at least an hour to ‘burn fuel’ (no option of leaving the plane as the door is shut), the already late flight arrives at its destination even later thereby missing a connecting flight. With no interaction or input, the customer is automatically booked on another flight arriving into a different-than-scheduled, wholly unfamiliar big-city airport after midnight. For the customer’s troubles, and with no interaction or input or option, the customer is automatically issued a $6 voucher for airport dinner (in reality a $6 voucher covers approximately the cost of one(1) airport coffee).
Technology managed the customer service experience above: scan boarding pass, machine doled out the new boarding pass for the new flight and the voucher. Question the voucher and flight at the gate, the response is, ‘The system defined the flight and voucher amount. I can’t help you with this here, but you can call 800-323-2323 or email and they can help you.”
In support of transparency, I’ll share the above air travel example happened. To me. One week ago. Any conversation that I wished to have about the transaction redirected me to placing a call or visiting a web page. Of course the process is more efficient – for the airline. In my opinion, that is simply not the way to use technology; to streamline your process to the detriment of the customer benefits neither the business nor the customer.
I take offense at the method for several reasons, not least of which is that it happened to me. Mostly because as a technology leader it disappoints me that I spent countless hours ‘selling’ technology as an asset while some businesses use it as a blockade. Technology is a massive value to business; increased efficiency, speed of service, and accessibility are three biggies. A strong ROI is pretty much inarguable. But, like many scenarios, if you stand behind anything to avoid making something right, it’s a bad move.
According to most definitions, I’m a few years away from hitting the middle-age mark, therefore my ‘fond memories’ of excellent service of years past wasn’t really that long ago.This slippery slope to degrading customer service needs to level off and technology needs to be served with a side dish of accountability at all times.
Final words – 3 things:
- Technology enhances business but it should not be used to replace customer service.
- Unless your motto mirrors Southwest Airlines “We like to think of ourselves as a Customer Service company that happens to fly airplanes (on schedule, with personality and perks along the way). How may we help you today?”, don’t model your customer service against an airline.
- Your business, whether selling sandwiches or supporting a campus of 25k, is to serve your customer. If they aren’t happy, they have options that don’t just include you and yours.