It’s not until you experience bad customer service that you really appreciate the good! Working in a service industry, you come to take good customer service for granted. Having worked in PR for far too many years to admit, I think I have a pretty good idea of what is expected of myself and my colleagues in terms of customer service. And therefore, I have an expectation of how I as a customer should be treated.
I had a very bad experience of customer service the other day. It may not come as any great surprise to some of you that it was in my dealings with a solicitor. Not just any old one-man-band, which you may expect some less than top notch service. I was dealing with a relatively high profile, reputable (or so their website says!) group of solicitors.
I don’t want this to turn into a rant, but just to put you in the picture, I had received a pile of documents with various post-it notes sticking out – where I assume it required a signature – I can only assume of course as there was no covering letter! Having signed the relevant papers and returned them, I once again heard nothing. So I chased, only to get a myriad of excuses as to why the solicitor hadn’t bothered to update me. The final straw came when she started to blame some other organisation for not responding to a letter she had sent them some two months earlier.
Unable to get a word in edgeways on the phone, I asked her to literally ‘STOP’ and asked why it had taken her two months to chase a response? Needless to say, that firm of solicitors is definitely off my contact list for the future!
For any business, customer service can either make or, in this case, break the reputation of an organisation. A good customer experience can be the differentiator that makes your company stand out from the crowd, especially in situations when the product you offer may be similar to that of your competitors.
I was in a client meeting not so long ago when this issue came up. This particular client, which I’m pleased to say already has an enviable reputation in the industry for its high levels of customer service, was keen to benchmark their services and attain world class standards. But that again raises a good question…what actually is ‘world class customer service’?
It’s fair to say that each and every one of us will have our own expectations of what this means to us. There are hundreds of articles full of advice as to how to offer world class customer service; a customer-centric strategy; listen to and respect your customers; communicate; take ownership. All good advice, but at the end of the day, if you treat others as you would like to be treated yourself, you can’t go too wrong.
I, for one, may not be returning to ‘said solicitors’ but I always find myself returning again and again to the trust of the John Lewis Partnership. Not because I can’t purchase what I want from other stores, but I know that if something goes wrong, I can always rely on John Lewis to sort out any issues efficiently and treat me with respect. Now that, in my opinion, is one organisation that has got it right!