Sitting On The Other Side Of The Customer Service Fence
What sets you apart from the competition?
Is it product? Is it people? Is it reputation?
Most likely, at some point, you’ll answer by saying “customer service.”
All of us in business want to be known for our customer service; it’s the key ingredient, really, in growing and maintaining a successful, competitive business.
In our Cresa Nashville office, we live by four words: “Do the right thing.”
It’s our mantra, our motto, our service acumen. Every day, we filter our actions and transactions by asking if we are doing the right thing for our client and will it benefit them in the long run.
Recently, I had a retail experience that brought home the value of customer service. I had placed a special order with a retailer and received notification that the package had arrived at the store. It was a busy Saturday with an even busier to-do list, and I went to the store to pick up the item with the thought that I’d be in and out in no time. When I arrived, nobody could find my order. I waited and waited, and frustration began to set in. After 30 or so minutes, I told the salesperson helping me that I needed to move on and to give me a call when they located the item. I wasn’t a happy customer.
Later in the day, the phone rang with the message that my order was located and to return at my convenience. I returned to the store, and by this time, the employee who had helped me earlier had left for the day. The woman who greeted me asked if she could help, and I repeated my story about the special order, how it had arrived but could not be found earlier.
The woman couldn't see the order, nor could I, so she went back into the computer and started searching and searching. I went and looked around the corner by the main desk and there sat my order. I picked it up, thanked the woman and went to leave. But that's where the story really only begins.
I couldn’t just walk out with the package. She needed to finish internal paperwork before she could release it. She kept looking for the order in their system; minutes went by and my frustration level was even higher. She started apologizing, explaining how sorry she was that the ordeal had stretched into a full day. She kept typing away on the keyboard, apologizing again and again and explaining the store had been extremely busy; she had not had a break all day and had not had time to go get some lunch. Finally, after another apology and thanking me for my patience, she figured out that a number was keyed in wrong.
Once she finished the paperwork and had me sign for the order, I headed out of the store, product in hand. I sat in the car, thinking about how the woman was thrown into my situation with no background, no clue about my order and no idea it was lost in the store and later found. She was tired, hungry, and the store was packed. But she kept her focus on me, telling me she was doing her best and apologizing for the wait.
As frustrating of an episode as it was, I appreciated her effort. I pulled out of the parking lot, drove down the street to a restaurant and bought the woman her lunch. I took it back into the store and handed it to her. The smile on her face made my day – and taught me another lesson about customer service.
Customer service never stops!
I could have walked out of there saying, ‘I’ll never shop here again.’ But her dedication to doing the right thing – for me and her company – got my attention and kept me as a customer.
It was a good lesson to be on the other side of customer care. I was reminded how important it is to do what you say you’ll do for the customer, to recognize an error, apologize for it and make the customer understand they are the most valuable component to your business.