"Customer service is not just a department...
it’s everyone’s job"
A few weeks ago, my son was riding his bicycle on his way to work when he found himself on the wrong side of a bicycle / automobile collision.
The car stopped, the police and medics were summoned, and an accident report was filed.
He ended up spending a few days in the hospital (like father... like son) with a fractured vertebra in his back plus a few cuts and bruises... but he is expected to fully recover (although the bike is a goner).
A family friend is an attorney who handles things like this. She explained that the first step before filing any insurance claims is to get a copy of the police report.
So earlier this week, I headed down to the main police station in downtown San Diego first thing in the morning to see if I could get a copy of the police report.
When I arrived at the police station, there was already a line of people in front of me so I patiently waited my turn. After about 20 minutes, I was being helped by a very friendly officer who politely told me that the reports were not handled at the main station but rather at one of the auxiliary stations about 20 minutes away.
Since this was my first time requesting a police report, I apologized to the officer for wasting his time, wished him well, and headed to the other station.
Unlike the main station downtown, parking was ample and free.
When I went to the reception area, I noticed that no one was manning the desk so I patiently waited for someone to emerge from the closed door. After about 15 minutes, an officer came out, but he was not the duty officer assigned to the front desk.
I asked him where the duty officer was, and he responded that the duty officer had called in sick that morning but that he would try to find someone back in the office to help me.
I thanked the officer for the help and waited about 15 minutes for another officer to finally come out.
I explained that I was trying to get a copy of a police report and asked him if he could help me. He wanted to know if I had a case number, and I gave it to him.
He asked me to wait a moment while he retrieved the report.
About 10 minutes passed when he reemerged into the lobby.
He asked me if this was a traffic accident and I said yes.
He then told me that all traffic reports were handled at the traffic division about 15 miles away. The officer asked me if I knew where the traffic division was and when I said "no" he drew me a map and sent me on my way.
I followed the map to another police sub-station but found the lobby locked when I tried to open the door. I
waited for a few minutes when I saw an officer exiting from a side door to the building. I rushed over to talk with the officer before he walked away to his car.
I asked him why the lobby door was locked and the officer apologized and explained that the duty officer was in a meeting and asked if I could come back in about 90 minutes.
I told him that I couldn’t wait but that I’d return tomorrow.
As I was driving out the parking lot, I noticed a building across the street that said "San Diego Police - Traffic Division". It seems that I wasn’t even at the right building!
"I was finally at the right place," I thought as I waited my turn to speak with the duty officer at this station.
The duty officer took all the pertinent information, went into the back office and returned with a computer printout. She explained that the printout showed that a report had been filed but that I needed to go to the records division to pick up an actual copy (the computer printout was just a referencing tool).
Exasperated, I asked her to please tell me where the records division was. She told me that it was at the main police headquarters downtown... exactly where I had started some 4 hours before!!
Out of time, I returned the following day to the records division and picked up a copy of the report.
Now this isn’t a story of bureaucratic red-tape. It’s a story of customer service.
At every stop, I found the officers I met to be friendly, courteous and polite. A few even went out of their way to try and help me even though it wasn’t their responsibility to do so.
The real issue wasn’t about politeness... it was about the lack of someone actually helping me to solve my problem.
This same phenomenon occurs on a regular basis whenever I try to contact a credit card company whose customer service department has been outsourced to a foreign call-center.
The people on the other end of the telephone call are incredibly polite... they just can’t do anything to actually to help solve my problem.
Ask the owner of any company what sets them apart from another company... and they will invariably say... outstanding customer service.
Every company THINKS that they
are providing great customer service... but in reality very few companies actually do. (In the same way that everyone THINKS that they have a sense of humor... but not everyone actually does).
Providing customer service means that you are actually helping people solve their problems, giving people additional options to choose from, or simply letting customers vent their frustrations.
Providing outstanding customer service starts at the top of any organization and permeates throughout the entire organization. Any person in the chain of command should have the authority to solve a customer’s problem... no matter what.
Although customer service is hard to define, there are some attributes that lend itself to providing an outstanding customer experience.
1. Attentiveness, empathy, and tenacity - the customer should feel as though their problem is your problem and you won’t rest until their problem is solved and the customer is satisfied with the results.
2. Knowledge and lateral thinking - the customer needs to believe that the person helping them to solve a problem has the skill set to actually help them. Additionally, the person helping the customer should know all the product or service options that could further assist the customer in selecting the optimal options for them.
3. Communication - Active listening should be employed when listening to the customer describe a problem to make sure that the problem is fully understood before offering possible solutions. Once a solution to the problem has been determined, then that solution should be clearly communicated to the customer so they completely understand what it is that you are going to do for them.
Great customer service is more than a smile and a handshake. It’s actually doing something to make sure that the customer is fully satisfied and the value proposition realized in the mind of the customer.
It’s not easy... customers are indeed fickle... but they will appreciate the extra effort and hopefully become long-term customers and even advocates spreading their positive experiences to other potential customers in the community.
As more and more products and services become commoditized... providing great customer service will allow companies to stand above the rest and add a differentiating factor that is difficult (if not impossible) for your competitors to emulate.
Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse where we try our best to exceed all of our customers’ expectations and provide the best customer service we can...
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