According to Wikipedia, the obvious source for…well, everything, just ask my kids, there is a definition of Customer Service. Wikipedia of course needs sources, so they quote Jamier L. Scott: “Customer service is a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation.” Not too bad, not totally complete either, but a worthy place to start. The important point here is that there is not mention of technology, no mention of product type, industry, nothing, nada, zilch! Since we are moving closer and closer to a totally service based economy, many many more parts of the organization are involved in Customer Service – not just those with ‘Service’ hidden within their title. You may sell a product, but whether you like it or not, you actually sell a service and give an experience!
A Tale of Two Experiences
I was on a quick flight home on Friday, noonish, from NYC to Burlington, VT. The carrier was USAirways, the airport LaGuardia. The weather was not a factor, no mechanical, no last minute changes and the airport was quiet. Unfortunately, the person at the gate could not have looked more miserable, this was issue number one. Later, the gate agent needed to make an announcement, which of course was drowned out by another announcement, issue number two. Instead of one of them stopping and waiting (both USAirways announcements), they both kept going. Then, I went up to the agent and asked what he said, and he was perfectly annoyed (yes, my perception) at the fact that I was asking a question. He even said: “I just made that announcement”. I said, I understood, tried to make light of the fact that someone else was talking at the same time, yet he did not see the humor and gave me an answer, with attitude. I am not comment on the very strong accent, making his directions hard to understand – oops, I guess I just did (BTW – I do now hang my hat with Sword Ciboodle and a good Scottish accent can be quite thick :-). This was so very simple, yet it was a lost opportunity, no lines, no weather, no crowds, nothing. Too many employees, act like simple laborers and just do not seem to care.
I went skiing on Saturday at Sugarbush Resort, just down the road from my home (45 minutes). The weather was great, new snow, and lots of people with the same idea! That said, we (middle son and I) put on our gear, hopped on the lift (lower lift was not much of an issue) and began the day. As we approached the lift, the person there greeted us with a genuine smile, and made a comment about the new snow, great weather and told us to have a great day. When we were at the upper lift, which had a bit of wait, the lift attendant was equally engaged. I could see his skis off to the side, but he was working that day. He had his sunglasses on upside down, and he asked how our runs had been and waited for the answer. He smiled and and wished us well. It just so happened we rode up with a volunteer ski patrol, same experience. Now, just to share, we spent a lot of time skiing in the woods, where there was a good 2-4 feet of powder and lot of trees (to avoid and use as brakes!). I do remember the skiing part of the day, more, but the overall experience does include the people.
Here are my thoughts:
- In flying, the experience begins the moment you pull into the airport, in skiing the experience begins when you pull up to the mountain (often in business you do not make your own reservation).
- No one I interacted with in either scenario had “Service” in, or hidden within, their title (though “gate agent” is close)
- My experience did not involve technology one bit (unless you consider the loud speaker).
- Beyond this experience, I would choose skiing over flying 9 out of 10 times, so it might not be a fair fight.
- Smiles are contagious and so easily to do!
What have you done to enable your extended organization to focus on the Customer Service experience for your customers? We all talk about technology, investment, ROI, KPI, TCO – how about talking about smiles, being nice and just being human? I am not only talking about your contact center either, just sayin’