Customer Service is Dead. (but you can choose to revive it!)

I arrived at my local Walgreen’s pharmacy at 8:55 am to pick up a prescription for my son, and to fix a billing issue from the week prior. As I walk back to see the pharmacist, I noticed that part of the store did not open until 9:00 am. I thought to myself, “Great, I’m going to be that person that helps them start their day with a complicated issue as soon as they open up”. Thirty-five minutes later, my issue was resolved. Now, it took as long as it did only due to the complicated nature of the problem. The reason this experience matters to this post is that when it was all over, I left profusely thanking the 3 ladies that helped me, and all of us were smiling and laughing. Why? Good customer service. I actually enjoyed seeing how they helped each other, kept a good attitude, and kept me informed as they worked. Things could have been so much different.

We have all had negative experiences when it comes to customer service. If we step back and look at this from an organizational perspective, we remember these are someone’s employees that create these experiences- maybe even yours. Remember what Walt Kelly said- “We have met the enemy and he is us”. If we want to improve the customer service experience we have to start with ourselves. I believe this has to include how we serve our INTERNAL customers as well. If we can’t treat each other well, be responsive, go the extra mile for the people we work and toil with, there is little chance that we will have the chops to do so for perfect strangers that come our way.

Creating a culture of “How can I help” is key. Sometimes the answer is no, but when we marry that no with “but how can I help you accomplish what you are after?” we find the secret to exceptional customer service and partnership. Consider the times you have had GREAT customer service. This happened because there was a culture present that created an expectation of going the extra mile, and/or there was an individual (just like you and I) that took it upon themselves to met a need that they saw present. We hit speed bumps and roadblocks in the inner workings of our projects due to customer service killers like “that’s not my job”, “we don’t do it that way”, or “my plate is already full”. These may be true, but this is a chance to meet a need that must be fulfilled. “No” does not meet the need.

Great customer service is not dead. It’s lying on the roadside in need. You can ignore it, walk around it, or step over it. But perhaps you will choose to grab it by the hand, embrace it, and nurture it back to health and watch it and your organization thrive.

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