Wed. Oct 26,2011
By Michael Kline
Customer service is too often measured in much the same way as humor or common sense is measured. Almost everyone thinks they, themselves are the very definition of common sense, and that they have the appropriate sense of humor.
Ironically, the person I know who complains most about other people not having any common sense, is himself, the person who in my opinion, has the least common sense of anyone I know. I mean he doesn’t have the good sense to come in out of the rain. He’s the kind of person who would test the depth of the river with both feet. Seriously, at work you probably know him (or maybe you are him); he laughs at constant stupid mistakes, as if a little laughter makes it go away (which it can if the mistakes aren’t costing the business money). The point is this person likes to complain about everyone else in terms of their lack of common sense. It would be hysterical if it wasn’t so frustrating. So let me ask you - do you think that most people are the best judge of their own level of common sense?
Here’s the problem. When you look around your business, and you think you offer pretty good customer service, do you think you are the best and most accurate measure of the reality your customers actually experience? Me either.
How do you measure customer service? It’s pretty easy, actually. You create a system that produces results based on real customer information rather than your gut feeling. Depending on the business, it might make sense to survey customers online, in person or with comment cards. Some might need to mix deeper questions into their regular customer contact conversations. The method can be whatever is appropriate for you, but you need do need to have some method. Then you simply record the responses. Once you have this information, you can immediately learn about areas of improvement as well as new sales opportunities. A number of other benefits can come out of this process, which will be valuable in strategic planning, but we’ll save that for another day. Once you have the data, you can watch for trends over time, between different locations, staff, during various promotions, etc. Many variables may affect the customer experience without you knowing it unless you measure it. This works a lot like the way you measure your closing ratios (you do, don’t you?) The story is usually told not by the responses, but by the change in responses.
So how is good customer service killing you? No one complains about mediocre service. No one complains about general indifference. If you’re not measuring it, you think a lack of complaints defines good service. Meanwhile, your customer goes away thinking you really don’t appreciate them. Indifference may not cause an immediate complaint, but it definitely does not build any sense of loyalty. It does not earn a referral or repeat visit. With only adequate customer service, even the slightest influence steers that customer to your competitors without thinking of you ever again. It costs a lot of money to get the first- time customer. It costs nothing to keep them as a repeat customer. Some businesses spend so much money getting a customer in the door, it takes several purchases before they start to make a profit on that customer. Does it make sense to measure the most important aspect of your operation that determines whether or not you keep them and ever make any money?
I am convinced that gross indifference – actively avoiding eye contact with a customer or pretending to be busy to avoid helping a customer is about the rudest behavior a retailer can have and it’s so common it practically epidemic. I know you’re not okay with that. What are you going to do about it?
Perhaps even more telling, is that while larger companies hire me to teach customer service on site, I don’t even offer a public customer service seminar because so few people think they need it. Hmmmm.
Feel free to share your thoughts at facebook.com/klineseminars.
Michael Kline is a local retailer, success coach and trainer. He may be reached through his website, www.klineseminars.com, or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.