This article originally appeared in July/2022 on Entrepreneur.com.
Is Good Customer Service a Thing of the Past? It Doesn’t Have to Be.
Customer service is one major facet of your business that you can control. Don't let it become a thing of the past for your company.
By: Jackie Ulasewich Cullen
Everyone has at least one cringeworthy customer service story. Sometimes it is amusing to learn about how a vendor and merchant botched their opportunity to make a good impression. Often, however, it is just infuriating, because it seems like the high standards we used to expect have all but disappeared. I have certainly noticed how my customer service experiences have deteriorated over the last five years. Where once outstanding service was the norm, mediocre service now suffices.
Regardless of the current attitude that many companies seem to take towards customer service in general, when it comes to my company, I refuse to lower my standards. From day one, exceptional customer service has been a point of pride for my partner and me, and that is never going to change, because customer service is one major facet of my business that I know I can control. Beyond that, excellent customer service is something I know I can deliver to all of my clients.
The decline of good customer service
In 2010, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, was published. It is a book that resonates with me, because it not only tells the story of a highly successful entrepreneur, but it also explains his philosophy that providing exceptional customer service distinguished his company from all the others and directly contributed to its popularity. When that book was first released, and people started talking about it, there were news stories about other customer-centric businesses and how they attributed their success, in large part, to providing great service.
Unfortunately, since then, it seems as though many companies have changed their focus, now accepting the bare minimum as far as customer service standards are concerned. In fact, I feel it in my daily dealings with local businesses, even at my favorite grocery store, which used to be known for going above and beyond for its customers. These days, when I receive even basic service, such as a prompt return phone call, I feel like that person is taking a step beyond what most others do, and I do not believe that should be acceptable.
I hear it from the dentists I meet with as well. They tell me about how difficult it is with other marketing agencies just to get simple requests done and how long they have to wait before someone replies to an email or returns a call. The general lack of communication is frustrating. One sentiment I hear often is that they can’t trust their current marketing agency. That is no way to do business. If your clients don’t believe in you and your company, they are not likely to remain your clients for long, and they will probably tell others about their bad experience.
When it comes to owning a marketing agency, we all know that there are certain factors which are beyond our control, but the customer’s experience is certainly one that is not. Creating a culture of excellent customer service in your company fosters more rewarding relationships with existing and future clients, because they will feel valued. Customers who perceive that they are appreciated are going to be happier overall, more willing to work with you rather than dispute you, and they are absolutely more likely to refer others to your company.
The effects of excellent customer service
Providing excellent customer service does not mean giving the customer what they want all the time, no matter what. On the contrary, it means treating your customers with respect and compassion, even when you have to tell them “no.” In fact, some of the best customer service moments are often also the most challenging. The customer appreciates you, because you took the time to listen to their concerns and worked earnestly to help them resolve their issue, even if the result did not end up quite in the way they had hoped. It comes down to transparency, which in turn breeds trust and loyalty.
At my company, my partner and I have deliberately chosen to hire people who embrace our philosophy. From the start, we have made exceptional customer service one of the pillars of our business, and that is a major reason why I can say with confidence that we win more clients based on trust and transparency that we do based on our services alone.
I reject the declining state of customer service that seems to be pervasive today. In fact, through my company, I am working diligently to encourage entrepreneurs to prioritize customer service in their businesses. I know that it makes a difference in how a company is perceived, not just by its own clients, but by everyone else as well. Customer service is not a dying art, as far as I am concerned. It is a useful tool that anyone can use to promote their business and attract quality customers.