December 11, 2009

News & Opinion: Customer Service is always the bottom line

By: Sally Haldorson @ 8:29 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Today, I was running a few minutes late on my way to work so instead of walking into one of my neighborhood's local coffee houses, I entered the Starbucks' drive-thru lane. And sat there. Drummed my fingers on my steering wheel. Felt tempted to tap on the horn though I would never do such a thing. Typically I'm patient with service as I've worked in a customer-centric business (is there really another kind?) most of my working life. But today, I was irritated and practiced cutting little remarks that I probably would never utter once I got up to the window. When I finally made it through the line, the woman handed me my coffee drink and said, "I'm giving this to you on the house because of the wait." I thanked her, drove away, and promptly told all of my coworkers about my great customer service experience. There is nothing quite like being given what you want before you even ask for it.
This experience was considerably different from a customer service disaster I experienced a few weeks prior. I was in a heated discussion with a representative at my bank about some fees I did not think were legitimately charged to my account. Even though I felt I had a valid argument that I had been given some errant advice from a different bank representative the previous day, this man clearly did not believe me and the entire experience was like banging my head against a brick wall. Needless to say, I got off the phone feeling utterly discouraged. Did I expect my bank to completely cave to my request and give me my "coffee" free as" Jackie Ramos often did at Bank of America? Of course not.
But as this Inc. 500 video Customer Service Tips from the Inc. 5000 Conference emphasizes, it would have been a more positive experience if I had felt like that customer representative was on my side, or at least on my team. Instead of feeling recognized as a loyal customer for some 20-odd years, I felt ignored and demeaned, and I have every intention of moving my business to another bank over time. As one CEO in the video mentions, "it's hand to hand combat" out there, and whether it is a bank (whose whole industry is operating at a 'customer-love' deficit right now as is), a brick-and-mortar bookseller (who is fighting for every sale that isn't already going to Amazon or Walmart), or a monolith coffee retailer (who really didn't need to give me my coffee free today in order to insure my repeat business), customer service is always the bottom line.


About Sally Haldorson

Sally Haldorson's job as 800-CEO-READ’s General Manager is to make 800-CEO-READ a great place to work for our employees, and a consistently high-performing customer service organization for our clients, authors, and our partners in the publishing industry. In addition to her General Manager duties ensuring collaboration, integration, and quality, she reads, writes, reviews, curates, and edits for the company. Helping craft The 100 Best Business Books of All Time used parts of both skill sets. Outside of work, she is most likely to be found hitting a tennis ball around or hanging out with her boys (husband, child, dog) at home.