Customer service…lost art (or not)?

Customer_serviceNot so long ago, before websites and email, people had to visually see products before making decisions to buy them. Who did they normally see upon entering a store or company? The customer service rep. They were the first point of contact and literally the face of what they were representing.  If the customer liked what they saw and heard, chances were they’d “stay a while.”

Making a good first impression may seem cliché, but it really is not. Customer service in general is becoming a lost art. In these days of instant gratification, people are in a hurry, so it’s important that the response be quick, yet still make a customer feel special.

This also applies to the telephone. If the person answering the phone doesn’t have a polite, cheerful, clear and “interested in you” voice from the get-go, it’s a turn-off. Over the course of my career, I’ve learned how to switch from my “business voice” to my “customer service voice” when answering the phone. The voice that made the caller feel like I had all the time world FOR THEM even I could be having the crappiest day ever and ready to throw the computer out the window. It’s a skill that is learned. Not everyone has this ability, so attention to this detail is important.

The same applies to email correspondence. No matter what, think carefully and respond even if you don’t have an answer. Acknowledging their query lets customers/clients know they are heard. It irks me to have emails go unresponded. A simple, “got it” or “working on it” email would be better than no response. Getting nothing back sends the wrong message, and then I go elsewhere.

We’ve all experienced the “I’ve got time for you” vibe from Home Depot (HD). Ever notice that anytime you think “hmmm…where do they keep the ___?” on your face, a HD rep is soon nearby and asking you some super-sleuthing questions, and within moments leads you to the product you want? I love this! Sure, they could say, “go to aisle 5” like most places, but for someone to take you to the product makes it a positive experience. There’s that initial face-time caring about what you’re looking for and getting what you want quickly. I remember those experiences more than what I actually bought.

This made me think. Today, about 81% of people research online before making any purchases. Think about how many people have visited your website and left un-noticed never to return. Like sand through a sieve. How does it feel knowing that many of those “potential customers” were lost because they couldn’t engage with you?

As a provider of B2B products and services:

  • Do you have a friendly and knowledgeable customer service/sales department?
  • Are they trained properly to give the right company image when they’re servicing customers?
  • Does your website act like a customer service rep and flow well?
  • Is your contact information easily found on your website?
  • Does your phone number actually go to a “person” and not a computer?
  • Does your site have chat capabilities to help answer quick questions?
  • Is there someone actively responding to email queries that go to your website?
  • Is it time to re-train the face(s) of your company?

The more fluid the process is, the better the experience. The better the experience, the more likely customers will return again.

So, is customer service a lost art in your company? We’d love to hear your story.

991_Debbie MackenzieDebbie MacKenzie is a 1991 graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) where she majored in graphic arts production management. Deb cut her professional teeth managing production and customer relations at major printing companies before coming to Schubert b2b 14 years ago. Debbie’s a versatile big hitter overseeing all things financial and operational.