We will remember 2009 as the year everyone was CRABBY and CUSTOMER SERVICE sucked. This was the year that businesses behaved badly.
But here's the good news: In 2010, this has left the window of opportunity WIDE OPEN for anyone who wants to steal business from competitors. Here's why:
In the so called "new economy" of 2009, business strategy revolved around this miserable mindset:
- Let's fire everyone we can, cut the pay of those left (they're lucky to have a job, after all), then try to operate normally with one third of the staff.
- Let customers figure it out. Send them to our website.
- Let customers wait on hold forever or go straight to voice mail jail.
- Let customers wait in line.
- Let customers stand at the front desk and ring a bell if they expect service. We fired our receptionist months ago.
- Heaven forbid we should pay anybody to talk to anybody! If they need support they can e-mail us.
- Why should we be friendly or nice? We're in a recession after all.
- Let's make our product worse to save money. Half the size, half the warranty, half the quality. No one will notice. If they do it will be too late.
- Let's cut our hours, close locations, and turn down the heat.
- If we absolutely need to hire someone, let's hire a part time employee, pay no health insurance, no benefits, and give them no training
Is it all okay because "everyone is a little on edge these days"?
Last night after work I stopped at the store with my New Year's Eve grocery list:
- Cracked Crab
- Sourdough Bread
- Caesar Salad
- French Onion Soup
- Champagne (of course)
- Chocolate (the more decadent, the better)
The seafood counter was mobbed, but that was okay by me. Other people in line where like me: happy. Jovial, even. (Long weekend ahead starting off with a party).
But behind the counter, it was a different story. Grumpiness and bad humor prevailed. The seafood clerks were overwhelmed, and needed at least 3 more people to help them.
They had been on their feet for hours, and were working in smelly seafood smeared aprons. In the middle of winter, they were doing a job that required they plunge their hands in ice every few minutes.
It should have bothered me, but I have become so used to bad customer service that I wasn't even fazed.
Get the point? Getting good service would have been more surprising and unexpected.
For 2010 there will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to steal business from your competitors. Here's why: The level of service out there has never been worse.
You will need to be willing to do these basic (but long forgotten) things and you will land all the business you want from customers who are (by now) used to being treated badly.
Simply make these resolutions:
- I will grant customers the ability to talk to ME (not to my voicemail and not to my e-mail)
- I will call them before they call me.
- I will have live, face to face meetings with my customers whenever I can (what a concept!)
- I will remember that a crabby customer needs my sympathy more than anything else.
- I will go out of my way to show I genuinely care by asking directly what the customer wants and needs.
- More than anything, I will cause my customers to believe they matter, and they are important.
- I will never allow my customers to know I am feeling crabby, overworked, or underpaid.
- I would rather have fewer customers that are lavished with attention than many customers who get no service, or poor service.
- In a world where service is getting worse, mine will get better.
- I will know my stuff.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, READERS and SUBSCRIBERS!
Written by Janet Guilbault, Mortgage Banker and Direct Lender Based Out of the San Francisco Bay Area