Liz Perrett | 29 January 2013
What value do we truly place on customer service these days? Are we experiencing a cultural shift in customer service behaviours?
I need to do some research. I am from a generation where
great customer service was a high priority, actually it was just a
given. I worked part time at 13 in a Newsagents and my manager
(who I now realise was one of the best sales people I have ever
known) was passionate (she wouldn't have called it passionate at
the time) about customer service standards. My behaviour had
to be exemplary to customers.
During the summer holidays we started at 6.00am to prepare the paper rounds and serve the early customers on their way to work. When we saw the customers draw up in their cars we had their paper, cigarettes or any regular purchase ready for them. We were cheerful and polite and our customers drove past two other Newsagents to get to us.
I worked in a pub in the evenings from the ages 19 to 25, as well as my day job, and we were fabulous, we made every customer feel special until our pub was the most popular in the area. All this business to consumer customer service excellence then laid the foundations for my approach to customer service behaviours right through my career in business to business. And I have received many accolades for my customer service skills.
What I need to understand is - do the majority of people care anymore whether they receive great customer service - or is efficiency enough? Is everyone so busy that any additional courtesy is just too time consuming? Is it time that I was put out to pasture because the younger generations have been brought up on Eastenders (lots of shouting and no charm) and text messages - maybe they are under such pressure to meet deadlines and targets that customer service just sounds like some old world concept that has no real place in fast paced modern life. Maybe processes and technology has taken over from great human interaction. Is it OK now just to be abrupt as long as you are factual and clear?
I don't believe that this is the case but I was in a mobile phone shop and my advisor was so 'cool' and positively disinterested that I left without investing. When I described his behaviour to my young niece she said that she would have found it funny.
I was on a Virgin flight many years ago and saw Richard Branson boarding the same plane - early into the flight he came over the PA to say that if it was OK with us he would like to come around the aeroplane and talk to us about our experience - he spent two and a half hours talking to passengers. At Newark he waited by the carousel to pick up his luggage with the rest of us. I will always travel Virgin if the price is competitive.
Can I persuade businesses to invest in improving customer service behaviours or am I out of time? What do you think?