On board the Sapphire Princess cruise ship, I was one of the 2,500 passengers served by over 1,000 staff members. That is one staff for every two and a half passengers. One might think that service ought to be great. It is a reasonable expectation until I learned about the gruelling work schedule. The nature of the business demands 24-hour service every day. Many staff have more than one role. For example, Joan who works at the purser’s desk also assists with the coordination of the evening shows. The long hours are taxing and yet, staff are courteous and helpful. In speaking with some of them, they acknowledge the important of great customer experience. They admit that sleep deprivation is a problem but they strive to put customers first.
On the contrary, customer service pales in the retail environment. Sales Associates tend to indulge in conversations among themselves. They are so busy folding and sorting the garments that they would not break away to serve the customer. It seems that getting the garments in the perfect spot is more important than serving the customers. They definitely haven’t got their priorities right—who pays their salary? In the digital age when shopping can be done online for pretty well anything. Customers unlikely would bother to make a trip to the store if an item can be delivered to them hassle-free. Customers expect great service when they walk into a store.
Customer service has become more important than ever. Here are several things you could do to ensure that customer service is good:
- Shop your own business—test and rate the experience as if you were in the shoes of your customers.
- Explore pre-sale and post-sale services—verify that your business delivers as promised.
- Train and reinforce importance—observe, provide feedback, and reinforce the ‘why’ and ‘how’ regularly.
- Make it consistent—serve with consistency across departments, business units, and geographic locations.
- Compare and enhance—shop your competitors’ business. Identify what they do well, borrow their idea and make it better.
Customer service is about paying attention to details, tending to the needs of the customers. It is not rocket science but it does require putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. When in doubt, talk to your customers directly and find out what makes them happy. Customer service is king because it builds trust and loyalty. Without customer service, you are simply a commodity to your customers.
© Connie Siu 2012. All rights reserved.