Customer service is a subject near and dear to my heart because both my parents were small business entrepreneurs. As a child, I watched our washer, refrigerator and other appliances come and go if my dad’s Western Auto customers needed one in good used condition, and he didn’t have any in stock. A few years later, when my father died and my mother opened a fabric and sewing shop, I did my homework in a back office while she helped ladies put together patterns and fabric and notions, then kept her company at home, late into the night, if there were rush orders for the handcrafted needlepoint pocketbooks that were so popular back then. I was taught that, while the customer may not always be right, she always deserves your full, enthusiastic attention and the best effort you can provide to meet her needs.
That’s the philosophy we have here at VantagePoint — which makes this a wonderful place to work — and our clients are companies known for their excellent products and great service, which makes them a pleasure to represent. But, generally speaking, customer service in this country is at an unprecedented low. At a time when there are fewer dollars to go around, you’d think business owners would make customer relations a top priority, but that’s not always the case.
I hear from at least one person a week who has been lied to, ignored, misinformed, or sold the wrong thing by what are supposed to be reputable companies. Personally, I spoke with two different representatives at a company last week who all but yawned and said, “I really could care less” when I called their customer support line. Their distinct disinterest and complete lack of helpfulness was maddening; if I’d had a choice, I would have taken my business elsewhere in a heartbeat. Compare that to my experience at a local shipping store when an employee who was already in her car and getting ready to drive away stopped and got out to assist me with a heavy package. Guess which company I will recommend at every opportunity? Guess which one I won’t?
Sadly, exceptional customer service is the exception these days — which baffles me because, beyond people being picky about who gets their hard-earned money, the world of social media allows them to share their bad experiences instantly and in exhaustive detail. While an agency such as ours can help clean up false reports or undocumented slander, if inferior products or inferior customer service are your standard business practices, sooner or later, your brand will pay the price.
Conversely, if your company hasn’t yet achieved the growth or sales goals you hoped for, perhaps outstanding customer service is the arena in which you can leave your competitors in the dust. Whether we’re buying fork lifts or frappes, make us feel like valued customers and you’ve got us for life.
It’s just like my parents taught me all those years ago: honesty is always the best policy, and if you practice the Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”), you’ll come out on top.