Somehow in the rush to grow bigger and better and offer more for customers in the name of competitive rivalry, some businesses have lost – or given up – the art of customer service. And really, it’s a shame.
Ask any independent contractor in sales – a Realtor, Mary Kay consultant, Tupperware, Pampered Chef or Tastefully Simple salesperson – and they’ll tell you referrals and repeat customers are the heart of their business. Sure, they can mine new customers every day, but by treating a customer well they have a better chance of getting word-of-mouth promotion. Which carries more weight with you when making a purchase decision – an ad purchased by someone who stands to profit from you taking them at their word, or someone you trust telling you they had a really good experience? Ads are important for businesses to get their names out there – but referrals are just as important for them to get their reputation out there.
In the last few weeks I’ve had several encounters with local businesses who could use a refresher course in customer service: an officer at a locally-owned bank was looking into something for me the week before Christmas and promised to call the next morning – I didn’t get to talk to anyone about the issue until three days later (after calling daily); I had a telephone conference set up with another businessman, arranged by his secretary, on a day that he was apparently on vacation; and a local pizzeria has buy one-get one coupons that are valid until Dec. 31, 2012 but because they just lowered their prices, they’re charging customers who use the coupon the old prices – which are $7 higher for a large pizza.
While there are hundreds of people across the country “occupying” different streets and raising awareness at political events, I am starting an protest of my own. I’m calling for the return of customer service.
Businesses aren’t wholly to blame, of course. In most cases we reward bad behavior – we tip the waitress who lets our water glass go empty and doesn’t come back to the table except to bring the check; we continue ordering from the places that deliver the foods we like best; we return to the gas station on the corner because it’s convenient, regardless of the fact that it may be dirty or the clerks are often on the phone or talking to each other rather than the customer.
Convenience has become more important than being treated well. In response, businesses stop making the extra effort – why should they? We apparently don’t need it.
Well, I need it. Or at least I want it. We deserve it – those are our hard-earned dollars going to help them keep their lights on, their furnaces hot and their phones working. Being courteous is the least they can do.
I am in the process of changing banks from the one I’ve used since I moved to eastern Iowa 10 years ago – the earlier incident wasn’t the first time I’ve come up against poor customer service there but it’s going to be the last. I’ve waged a Facebook quest with the pizza place to get them to acknowledge their service was lacking – they’ve made some responses but no real progress (the latest was a note from the owner asking me to call him – with no time or date listed – and yet when I did he wasn’t in and wouldn’t be until tomorrow).
My challenge to you is to join me. Stand up for your right to good service. Thank people when they do well, but don’t just take it when they don’t.