by Judy M McCutcheon
Less than excellent customer service really exasperates me. The Caribbean is home to the world’s warmest and friendliest people. Grenada boasts that it is the friendliest of them all; so why are we as customers subjected to rude, unsmiling, and unfriendly customer-facing staff?
Products can be duplicated, so differentiating based solely on products is no longer a viable option. Look at the case of the cement blocks – there is always someone with a better-quality, lower-cost product. The more agile and profitable companies know this, so they make customer service excellence their differentiator. Jeff Bezos of Amazon has a practice where he leaves an empty chair in his executive meetings to remind his senior-level managers, what and who’s important in the grand scheme of things. Why is Zappos so successful as an online retailer? What about Google? And please don’t use the argument that we are a small economy, because I would argue that it is because we are a small economy that we should take pride in our service. Understand that your people, both internal and external deserve stellar service.
This past week I had the pleasure of interacting with 3 financial institutions. And I don’t know if it’s just me or if that’s the level of service they give, but what I do know is that they need to improve their customer service, significantly. I went to one institution to transact some business and was told that I needed to provide further information and that an email would suffice. I provided the information requested that same day and had to wait 2 days before I got a response. You might say that I’m lucky it took only 2 days, but I didn’t know if I got the email address correctly or not, so even if they were not able to deal with the matter right away, a simple acknowledgement of the email would have sufficed. Non-acknowledgement of emails really peeves me. The second institution, well if you know me, you know that very little scares me, but this lady scared the heck out of me. It felt almost as if I was in an episode of Frozen. Why is it necessary to treat your customers and potential customers so cold and without the human touch? Is it because it’s not your company? Well, the third institution is the best, no really, they are. I went to their website and signed up for online banking – I really detest lines. So anyway, I had to sign up and submit the form to which they said they would contact me within 24 hours, it is now 5 days. I don’t know, maybe I misread, and it really was 24 days.
There is a supermarket that I will not ever go back to because of the terrible service I received from one of the supervisors. As an organisation, you really should hire for attitude as it relates to people who are customer facing. Is it that we want to pay peanuts and expect a different animal to show up? In this information age where things are posted on social media even before you get the complaint, it is crucial that you deliver on your promise. If you promise X, then X plus Y must be delivered. Under promise and over deliver, this will certainly delight your customers. Remember your customers do not know what you can deliver unless you tell and show them; so, it’s okay to under promise. Customers have a certain level of expectations from companies – good customer service. And when that is not delivered, we make a fuss; and then you say that we are difficult. We are not difficult, we are more informed, and we want much more than you are delivering. The latest statistics show that people are 92% more likely to use a product or service based on the recommendation of family or friends. It is your existing customers that must do the recommending. Therefore, I would suggest that you treat them well.
People make excuses for bad and sometimes terrible customer service saying, “well you know this is the Caribbean.” That’s such nonsense. These same Caribbean people leave and go to first world countries and deliver the service that is expected. Is it that we are not expecting good service, or is it that we are complacent in our expectations? Is it that companies do not see their customers as an integral as part of their operations? Are your customers seen as an interruption to your day? I can tell you, I felt as if I was intruding on the lady at the second financial institution that I called. As an organisation, you have the absolute power to affect your profits positively or negatively – you can choose to put people first. You can choose to put your employees as well as your customers at the centre of your world. You ultimately decide whether you sink, or you float.
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Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net