Put on your consumer hat for a moment. If you are like me, you have a short list of customer service complaints, small irritant practices that really gripe you. For example, I don’t like phone trees when I call a company. Inevitably my choice is the last in the long, long option list. I don’t like it when a provider repeatedly misses deadlines and appointments. One of my current vendors is chronically late, never hitting any promises on time. If he says he will be at my office at 11:00 a.m., I schedule him for 1:00 p.m. In general, I let these small issues slide for those suppliers who otherwise do great work. I overlook the small things because they don’t severely tarnish the otherwise solid business relationship. Also, these small customer service problems provide me with ample material for my columns.
There is one customer service fail, however, I cannot overlook. Nothing bothers me so much as the attitude which, in essence, says, “It’s not my job.” That is the one guaranteed to send me into a complaint overdrive.
I was on vacation last week, and apparently it was not the job of the woman at the front desk of my hotel to assist me with paying the tab I had just run up in the near deserted lounge. Right after pouring my first and only drink, the bartender quit “tending”, having apparently decided to take his holiday the same night I started mine. When I asked the woman at the front desk to bill my room, she volleyed my request back across the counter and said I would have to speak with the bartender, she couldn’t help me.
It was late and I was tired. I had been waiting on the bartender to return for some time. Politely, I gave her my room number and again explained the situation. I suggested SHE speak with bartender if the search party found him, and left her to settle my bill.
Then I wrote this column.
Here’s the thing: we are all empowered to assist clients, even the most demanding ones who insist on straying outside of the bounds of the services we offer. We don’t have to coddle bad clients, and we don’t have to perform extraordinary services for which we receive no compensation, but we can all spend a small moment empathizing with a client’s needs. If a client needs a cell phone when they travel, perhaps you know a supplier to which you can send a referral. If a client has pets who need tending, it’s certainly not your responsibility to feed Fido. But perhaps you do know a service who will take care of pets when people travel.
Especially when our own company mechanisms have created a problem for a client, we should be prepared to act. Our work associates should be empowered to step up and assist, to fill the gaps in customer service which sometimes creep into our procedures. The worse response possible is a curt “No” or “I don’t do that” or “It’s not my responsibility.”
We don’t own our clients. They are free agents, capable of moving on for any or no reason. The more we can do to bind the relationship, to service their needs, the better chance the relationship has of surviving the occasional lapse.