Does Customer Service Live In Corporate Values?
March 22, 2012 Leave a comment
Everywhere I turn I see articles and books about corporate values. I also see more and more companies defining their values as well as training, nurturing and rewarding employees who demonstrate corporate values. Hallelujah!
What have been key ingredients in most entrepreneur and family businesses are being fully embraced and recognized as important elements of a successful company. Giants like Starbucks and Apple are showing that adoption pays off. Yet I suggest we have to be careful to recognize corporate values are not the end game but an important part of a healthy strategic marketing plan.
I want to share a recent experience I had with a supplier whose employees do well at demonstrating their values… but the company is missing critical elements to make customer service (and customer loyalty), live.
Before we start, lets define what we should be looking for to rate customer service high. For me, customer service lives through many things including our:
- Employees’ abilities
- Employees’ values
- Corporate values
- Corporate policies
- Corporate employee empowerment
- Product / service
- Delivery system
You may have a few more to add to the list (like… ability to innovate and diversity), and that’s great. Customer service is a balance of many soft and hard skills that combine to define your brand reputation and long-term profitability.
For many years I’ve enjoyed the service of a large, popular ‘Business Supply Store’. I used (past tense), them for pretty much everything which includes printing the participant guides for Business Email Etiquette course I deliver.
Their staff have been terrific; they’ve been polite, happy, knowledgeable and helpful. Unfortunately, things started to slide a few months ago… then last week came.
Last week I needed one 8.5 x 11 colour copy of new campaign I was building. As always, I brought them a USB memory stick with a pdf of the required document. The print specialist informed me that to insert the USB stick into their computer would now cost $3.50. I could avoid the $3.50 by going back to my office and emailing them the file. Really? Go back to the office to email them?
Out of immediate need I gave her the go ahead. Within seconds she inserted the drive and opened my pdf.
Now, let’s be clear that it’s not the money. I don’t mind paying for service but don’t like being taken advantage of.
Did I complain? Yes – I mentioned my views to the print specialist and the Manager including that they were about to lose my business. What happened? NOTHING! They said they were sorry but it was a new policy from corporate and they didn’t have authority to override it.
Fast Forward: The End Of The Week
I found an independent printer a few blocks away to print the finished campaign (alternate solutions are everywhere).
But the real loser wasn’t me… or my $3.50 (plus tax), or even all my printing business. The real loser was a long-term relationship and my respect for the ‘Business Supply Store’. I’m also disappointed how they treat their staff. Not only are customers being taken advantage of… their staff seem to have no opportunity to use their judgment.
Side comment: I believe well hired – and well-trained employees should be empowered to make straight forward decisions and to make a problem situation right… especially the first time a loyal customer runs into a new… ‘policy’.
What We Can Take Away From This
We get a chance to make a first impression every time we have an interaction. Every time we speak with or write to our customers / co-workers we set the stage for how successful that interaction will be and establishes expectations for the next interaction. Example: If I have a great interaction I want to go back and I want to tell people about it; and if I have a bad interaction I want to stay away… and perhaps tell people about it.
We’ve talked before about how it’s cheaper to keep good customers – customers who will refer you to their friends.
- In a time when companies are begging for loyal, hard-working employees who give great customer service – what is wrong with this case study?
- In a time when companies are begging for loyal customers who will make more – and hopefully larger purchases in the future – what is wrong with this case study?
Imagine how this could all be different if the company was looking beyond having a greeter at the door but included employees and customers in discussions about all aspects of their product development, customer care, corporate values, policies and service delivery.
Imagine the possibilities when we consider all of the places customer service lives.
If you want your employees to invest a lot in your business and your customers – you have to invest a lot in them… and trust them. If you want your customers to invest a lot in you – you have to invest a lot in them… and respect them.
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