Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The toughest job

Now I reckon that the toughest job in the world is customer service, which most people are in these days. I’ve had a few experiences in the last couple of days that have made me think about the way that I deliver customer service. Let me give you some examples.

A few times recently I’ve needed to go and ask for information at an enquiry location. Every time, I have left with the information I needed but also that I was a bit of an idiot for asking. Another time I had a misunderstanding about something I had bought and again got it sorted but felt after the experience that it was my fault for not knowing the full ‘in’s’ and out’s’ of something I’d only just acquired. Finally, when I ordered something, I came away with my order but felt like I was being such a burden.

I understand that in many of these circumstances the individuals I interacted with deal with perhaps hundreds of people each and everyday. I’ll also bet that the vast majority of people they deal with can be pretty demanding. This constant battering makes it extremely hard to maintain a sunny disposition and helpful attitude in every single case. Given the pressures of constantly dealing with people wanting something (in many times immediately) I totally understand why they have lost that twinkle in their eye.

However, I do see two opportunities here. Firstly, if the level of ‘customer service’ has generally fallen to a mild level of distain then it opens the door of opportunity for an elevated level of customer service. I can’t help but think of how much better my experiences would have been if the people I had dealing with really let me know that they wanted to help me. If just one person had taken the time to exercise an enhanced level of customer services it would have stood out like a beacon in recent times. Now don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate that maintaining this level day in and day out is hard but imagine the opportunity if you could even just lift the level above the current level? You’d really make a mark I reckon.

Secondly, as a consumer how much more of an impact am I going to have on someone providing me with a service if I at least do my best to make their job easier. The chances of it making an impact are probably pretty small given the general poor behaviour of consumers but again, there is a chance that because it is an above the normal response some benefit maybe forth coming.

Now, if you think that odds of either would make a difference consider all the people who play the lottery each week in the hope of it changing their lives in one fell swoop. I reckon that if you adopted what I suggested above then I’m sure your chances would be much better than playign the lottery and would increase everyday.

Now perhaps the thorniest question is how do you keep your levels of customer service up when you are being ‘battered’ everyday? I suppose the best suggestion I can make is that you need something outside the field you are working in that can give you a break and allow you to ‘refresh’ yourself. For me this means something totally away from IT, which I admit is very hard, but honestly when I have managed to take that ‘complete’ break I feel my energy levels renewed and am ready to accept the challenge of the hardest customer request. As I have said before in this blog, it is all about finding a balance. The strange thing perhaps to grasp is that to provide better customer service you should be doing ‘less’ of what you normally do and ‘more’ of what you don’t normally do, because typically most driven people mistakenly believe they need to keep doing more and more of the one thing. The problem is that the incremental return of more and more becomes pretty small after a while. Better off to take a break to promote the energy to take it to the next level.

So there you have it. From what I have seen lately, there is a huge opportunity to distinguish yourself and your business by providing an increased level of customer service. The way to achieve that is to actually take more time completely away and refresh yourself. Very Zen if I do say so myself.