So earlier today I was at East Park mall with a dear friend of mine. It was just a little after 2 pm so we decided to grab a late lunch. We headed to a well-known eating place and chose a table to the near left end of the restaurant. As is the norm at most eating places we expected to have been attended to within 5 minutes of our sitting down. Well it’s safe to say 10…15 minutes went by with still no sign of a waiter. Just as I was about to get up to go and ask for some assistance a waitress zoomed past us to attend to another table. We were in her line of vision so my friend and I decided to exercise a little more patience in the hope that we had been seen and would obviously be attended to next. Well we “hoped” wrong. After she was done with the table beside us she zoomed past us again without a second glance.
At this point we were about ready to leave, but before we could get up we caught the eye of another waiter. He came by to ask if we had been assisted, and we explained, rather reluctantly, that we had been waiting at the table for half an hour without so much as a drink. The waiter handed us a couple of menus and promised to be back in a minute to take our orders. We never saw him again. After what felt like an hour later we finally managed to place our orders. To be honest, I was surprised that we were still sitting there. It was well after the lunch hour rush so the restaurant wasn’t even that busy. If anything it was half empty. This clearly left no excuse for the extremely bad service. When the food arrived (much much later) it was substandard and definitely wasn’t worth the wait. We were not impressed. Needless to say my friend and I vowed never to step foot in that restaurant again.
Now I realize the experience I had is not something that is uncommon. If anything, I’m certain we can all point to an incident or two when we encountered downright awful service that made us want to walk out the door and never come back. And this happens at restaurants and businesses alike all over the world.
In 2013, 66% of consumers switched brands or businesses globally due to poor customer service and 82% of those who switched said the brand could have done something to stop them (Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Survey, 2013).
It’s about time companies realized that they don’t sell products or services, they sell feelings, confidence and experiences. For a consumer, the privilege of being seen, listened to and valued is golden. Being treated to royalty level service the minute we walk through the door of that new boutique with the cute clothes gives us such a high. I cannot stress this enough. It’s like a new relationship, when you meet someone who’s not only tall dark and handsome but also treats you like the queen that you are, you’ll definitely tell anyone with an ear to listen. James Cash Penney puts it this way; Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking advertisement.
In the face of all it takes to run a successful business, good customer care is something that can be easily chalked down as not important. However when the service is bad it won’t do you any favours. The reality is that bad customer service is all the more powerful in this age of social media where a bad review could easily go viral and taint your company’s image to prospective clients before they even have a chance to try your products. As a personal rule every time I want to try out a new restaurant, cinema, park, gift shop, event vendor, or any such product or service. I first look up their social media pages or website if they have one, to check out what kind of reviews they get. If most of them are bad then it’s a no for me. Word of mouth is everything in business and social media is where many are talking now, so consumers have definitely learnt to do their homework. I mean, nobody wants to risk getting really bad service on an important date or worse paying for something totally different from what was advertised. Hence our best bet is to get an informed opinion beforehand.
Here’s an old retail adage to always keep in mind; customers remember the service a lot longer than they remember the price. Sounds a little cliché but it’s no secret that we consumers in any area of business that is, look for much more than just product. Sure if the price is right we’ll come around maybe once or twice but eventually we’ll realize that we deserve better and jump ship. Shep Hyken; New York Times Best Selling Author of the amazement revolution laid it down perfectly when he said “The customers’ expectations are changing. They are smarter and demand a level that is no longer compared to your competitor but to any good customer service provider.” In other words, your field of expertise may be manufacturing but when you serve your client, the standard of service will be expected to match the great experience that your client received at the restaurant they dined at a week ago, or the hotel they visited over the holidays.
Let me wrap this up by saying excellence in customer service doesn’t come about accidentally. It needs to be carefully defined, planned and managed. The trick is not in announcing that your company delivers excellent service, it is in actually delivering that excellence. Good customer care is the lifeblood of any business. A business can offer promotions and slash prices to bring in as many new customers as possible but unless some of those customers come back the business will not be sustained.