Customer service. We hear a lot about it but what does it really mean? Recently Iíve observed a couple of instances of what I call exemplary customer service.
First, consider a physical therapist I watched work with a friend of mine in a residential rehab facility. After settling in, my friend contacted the physical therapy department to find out when the first visit would occur. ďThe therapist will visit your room tomorrow morning to get started,Ē he was told. Sure enough the next morning at 10:30AM the physical therapist showed up, reviewed his situation with him, explained how her work with him would progress and said she would return that afternoon after 2:00PM. Shortly after 2:00PM she showed up, and he had his first session.
His opinion and mine couldnít be higher about the therapist and the physical therapy department. Why? Because of her dedication to customer service. Customer service starts with one simple maxim: tell people what you are going to do and then do it. If you say you are going to arrive at 2:00PM, then be there at 2:00PM. But fail to arrive when you say you will, fail to make a call when you say you will, donít deliver the information you say you will deliver when you say you will deliver it, then people start questioning both you and your organizationís ability to deliver.
Now, there are times when plans go awry, when situations change. When that happens, itís time to apply the second maxim of customer service: communicate. Let the person know what has changed and what to expect instead. The physical therapist had even called at 1:30 to assure my friend that sheíd be there.
Most people dread dealing with the telephone company. Recently, I witnessed a friend try to move her telephone service to her new home in the next town. True to form, the experience with the person on the phone was vague at best, but she was assured that, yes, the service would be moved and she could keep her old phone number. When the service technician arrived to install the service, she found out the old number wasnít going to be moved. Now for the customer service part of the story. The service technician was awesome. He spent several hours trouble shooting the situation for her, working the system as best he could. Even though he ultimately was unsuccessful, his effort and his friendly positive demeanor won her over.
The third customer service maxim is: Go the extra mile for the customer and do it in a pleasant, positive friendly manner. More often than not, your customer will listen and understand even when things donít go their way.
Thereís a good reason why companies stress quality customer service. Every positive interaction increases customer loyalty. And, with customers taking to blogs, Facebook, and twitter to share their good and bad experiences, what company today can afford the consequences of bad service?
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
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