Friday, 24 June 2016

A noun or an adjective

Recently I had the misfortune of dealing with the customer service department of my telco, TV , cellular and internet provider.  My costs had gone up unexpectedly and my inquiries led to the fact that loyalty credits that I had been receiving had been canceled.  Customer service could only advise me what had happened, they could not reverse it and so I was transferred to the loyalty department.  My complaint was dealt with by an employee with 20 years experience who told me that I simply did not understand their need to make a profit.  He transferred me to customer retention. That is the group that grovels, apologizes and promises while throwing cash at the issue in an attempt to reconcile.

By way of contrast, carpets are dropped off at our store every two weeks.  The delivery rep is pleasant, he arrives on time and he smiles as rolls up the dirty mats then spreads the new ones. He thanks us each time he is in.

My telco provider bills me $3600 a year.  The mats cost under $500.  The telco looks at the customer as an adjective.  The mat company views me as a noun.  Do you see the difference?

The telco is all about segmenting their service responsibilities.  We are treated as if we are something that is broken and needs repair.  Calls are directed to repair/support - home phone, internet, mobility, television, customer. So 'customer' is simply the adjective that describes the nature of service that needs to be addressed.

The mat company recognizes that they exist to serve the customer.  Delivering clean mats is not 'customer service'.  Rather it is serving the customer.  We are of object of their affection.

This is not just a matter of semantics.  It is all about how you view your client base.  How often have you heard the refrain '...this business would be a lot easier if we did not have all these customers to serve...'

As the leader you must instill a sincere sense of urgency with regards to how to treat your customer base.  If your clients are adjectives you are providing customer disservice.  Your client's satisfaction must be the object of all you do and that priority must begin at the top of the house.  If you are disconnected from the client, regardless of how large your customer base is,  that is the message your employees will communicate.  

When you treat your clients as adjectives, your employees with throw the company under the bus whenever any dissatisfaction is expressed.  And why not?  They are simply reflecting the values you have established.  When customers are the primary focus then fewer issues arise because you will have anticipated and prevented them from occurring.

As in most aspects of leadership, it is a matter of choice.  Is your customer a priority, the object of your affection.  Or are they a nuisance that, like a squeaky wheel, needs to be serviced from time to time.