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Chris LoCurto

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March 25, 2013

Customer Service: Do You Really Care?

March 25, 2013 | By | 48 Comments

Customer Service is something you hear me preach about quite a bit here. To me, it’s the lifeblood of your organization. Without at least good customer service, few people care about your product.

Customer Service

Recently I attended a conference in Colorado. (Having been to a ton of events, and perhaps put on one or seven hundred myself, I was pretty excited that we had two great instructors in Pete Richardson and Michael Murphy.)

During one of the sessions, Pete shared about an experience he had with the now defunct CompUSA. Early in his last business he had used CompUSA to get all of his computers up and running…and continuously fixed.

He got to a point where he was so frustrated with CompUSA’s customer service that he was just done. He went to the store that he had been using and wanted to let the manager know what was going on.

As he walked in he noticed the manager standing under a sign that listed the companies core values. As he looked up and read them, he thought to himself that they were pretty solid.

He then decided to let the manager know what was going on. He said, “I am taking my business elsewhere and I thought you might want to know why”. To which the store manager said, “No…I really don’t.”

Without the need to respond, Pete left the store and never went back.

There comes a time in your role as a leader or entrepreneur where you have to take responsibility for your companies actions. Is there any doubt it was this kind of attitude towards customers that caused the retail chain to die off?

 You can’t be surprised that you lose business when you treat the actual business like…business! Instead, you have to treat your customers like they are actually the ones contributing to your 401K.

Yes, there are times that the customer is wrong. I do believe that. But to continually mistreat customers, and then wonder why you’re wearing a paper hat flipping burgers, is ridiculous. Understand where your paycheck comes from and respond accordingly. Especially if your speaking under your core values.

Question: How should Pete have been treated? 

  • http://harrisonjonathan.wordpress.com/ Jonathan Harrison

    Wow, what a sad story. I maintain that “Is the customer always right” is really the wrong question.
    The customer is vulnerable. Anything I can do to reduce their vulnerability is true customer service.
    If clarification is needed, please reference “The Golden Rule.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/rod.semple.33 Rod Semple

    This could be a symptom of something rotten at a higher level. May be the senior management team needs a good shake up!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jforcephenom Joseph Moore

    The customer is definitely the most important person at least to me. I think the only time I have just said no was when a customer had cussed out one of my team members and before I even got to introduce myself had already started cussing me, turns out while I was walking the customer to the door, I saw his issue and once he was outside I saw his issue and told him had he just calmed down for maybe three seconds all would have been well.

  • http://twitter.com/T60Productions T60 Productions

    Hi Chris… I’ve been out of town for a while and I’m getting caught up on my blog reading… so glad I came across this one!

    Such a good reminder… especially for someone like me in a creative field (storytelling) since I sometimes face a unique challenge with how to service customers.

    I occasionally get clients who want to make a change to a video that I disagree with on a creative level. Do I just go along with it because that’s what they want, or do I discourage the change?

    It often comes down to how I think it impacts the video. If I truly believe it’s going to negatively impact the viewer’s experience, I let them know. If not, I might not agree… but it is their video so I roll with it.

    Not your usual customer service situation, so I though you’d find it interesting.

    –Tony Gnau

  • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

    I’m so glad I’ve never treated a customer like that…oh wait…I have:

    http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/customer-service-lessons-for-a-young-punk/

    Sigh.

  • http://CorporateCultureRevolution.com/ Bob Winchester

    It seems to me that this issue is not only a symptom of a broken culture / leadership. It’s also a sign of the times. Many companies have cut their staff down to the bone and left their existing teams with very limited resources / manpower with no regard to the affect on moral.

    This in turn can create a frustrated team and eventually a lousy attitude towards the company, customer, co-workers, etc.

    This isn’t a good excuse for what happened, but just something to consider as we are all human at the end of the day.

    Check this excerpt out from Bill Catlette, author of “Contented Cows Give Better Milk”,

    “A joint study by the Human Capital Institute, with whom it’s been our honor to have partnered on a few occasions recently (http://www.hci.org/blog/developing-leaders-cheap), and monster.com, showed that 57% of the workers they surveyed believed that employers were “exploiting the recession” to drive longer hours and lower pay.”

    Whether this is true or not is irrelevant; if people believe it, then they will behave differently.

    Bottom line….if you have rockstar customer service, you will stand out!

  • Sondra Hopkins

    Excellent posting. Printing this out and distributing to all staff in every office. Thanks for the reminder.

  • TroyD

    Funny, I happen to have a customer service question today. I started an engraving business this year engraving stones, glass and other materials. I was recently a vendor at a church event where several people filled out order forms for custom engraved
    rocks. I was very deliberate in building the order form to avoid problems, but this one I didn’t see coming. One young (20′s) woman filled out the order form saying she wanted her rock to say “Matthew 3:66″ on one side and “2013″ on the other. Many times when I am done with projects I like to read the verses that are important to customers. It’s a good excuse to read the bible and I usually include a personal note with their rock. Her rock
    turned out great, I went to read the verse and get started on her note of encouragement, when I saw Matthew 3 doesn’t go to 64. Now what, I shouldn’t have to verify these things? Do I ask her what she really wanted and make her one for free. Point out the mistake and try to get her to buy the correct one. Or give it to her and wait for her to find the mistake. What now?

    • http://www.hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Mark Sieverkropp

      Troy, I think I’d do another for free. Apologize for not checking previous to ensure it was correct.

      Sure it wasn’t your fault, but I’m guessing the good will you’ll create towards her will earn you more sales than you lost…

      I’d say count it up as a lesson learned to double check accuracy and an opportunity to provide exceptional service.
      But that’s just my thoughts…

      • TroyD

        Thanks Mark, my heart told me to follow that exact path, but my mind was saying, I can’t read minds and verify what she meant to say. But I will work with her to make it right and let her guide the money part of conversation. Now I just have a really cool rock with a verse that doesn’t exist! :-)

  • http://www.designingachampion.com/ DrMatt

    Wow! What I have always strived for in my business is what I call Silver Tray Service. The customer needs to feel like they are at the “Ritz Carlton” of whatever business it is that you run. If they aren’t getting that kind of service, they will not be back, and definitely won’t refer to you. Pete should have at least been heard. I agree that there are times the customer is wrong, but if you just act like you don’t care one way or the other, all I can say is wow.

  • Cass Sitterly

    Standing under the core values reiterates the real problem. We can deal with a company if they profess to be a shark, swim like a shark, feed like a shark. We know before we climb out of our boat and into their waters. it’s our choice as consumers.
    A Company that takes the time to develop core values, and place them conspicuously in the place of business owes their consumers more time in training and development of their Stewards of the Values. Not only will the customer leave with bad taste in his mouth that he will be willing to share with others, the other employees are now devastated to see their hopes and faith in the company they believed in, dashed as well.
    We may not always get the answer that we want, we may not always be able to give the answer that we want, but no matter what side of the transaction you are on- honesty, clarity and transparency and exemplifying and personifying the belief system established and professed is essential.

  • http://www.hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Mark Sieverkropp

    Wow, what a story! I can’t hardly imagine getting that response from a manager!!
    I think I would’ve done the same thing as Pete. What do you say after that response? nothing.
    How should he have been treated? The manager should’ve immediately sat down with him and explored the situation. Determined where the ball was dropped, why it was dropped, how it made the customer feel, and sometimes, explain to the customer what would’ve made things go smoother on his end (yes, sometimes the customer is not right…).
    The catch 22 of your question is, if the manager had reacted that way, he wouldn’t have had to deal with the situation, because the service would not have sucked to that extent!
    Great illustration of what NOT to do! Thanks Chris.

    • http://CorporateCultureRevolution.com/ Bob Winchester

      Good answer!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ImFree Laura Harper-Prather

    This is something that has be bugging me for a LONG time! Customer SERVICE has become rare. I’m a small biz owner and I recognize we all make mistakes. The difference is what we do to repair/fix the mistakes & the attitude with it. I LOVE what you said, “You can’t be surprised that you lose business when you treat the actual
    business like…business! Instead, you have to treat your customers like
    they are actually the ones contributing to your 401K.” Recently had a situation with a big biz who was more concerned about getting money than finding a way for a win-win situation for the both of us. Instead they threatened me at a time when we thought we were going
    to have to close our doors. If they had been patient & waited a
    few months until I got through a rough time everything would have been
    different and both parties would be happy. They would have received their money, I would have received a service that would benefit my business and I would have been an ongoing customer. I ended up paying them for a service I never received – free money. Yes, I could take them to court but why waste any more of my time? I’m glad to say that are we not only still open but we are growing and I learned a valuable lesson on the importance of having a people-focused business versus and money-focused business. For me, giving them free money was worth this lesson learned. As for the big, bully company: the event I was supposed to participate in was snowed-out so they lost money AND I had my largest day in sales at my store since we opened (and the weather was bad). I don’t wish ill for this company but the irony could not be missed. You truly sow what you reap.

  • http://www.qualitylivingmadesimple.com/ Joshua Rivers

    Wow! I think that manager gets negative points for that kind of response. He should have at least gave Pete the opportunity to explain the issues he was having. Chances are that Pete’s mind wouldn’t have been changed and would have still stopped shopping there, but his Pete may at least had a better feeling about that particular manager. When a manager basically ignores an irate customer, it’s like throwing coals on the fire.

    I remember a bad experience we had at a restaurant last year in Branson. It was off-season, so the town was slow. We got into town around 8 pm, and we were hungry. We saw this restaurant and decided to stop. It was a chain restaurant and we knew we liked it. There was only one other table there, and it took about five minutes before someone came up to greet us and seat us. No one ever came back to us, even to take our drink order. I generally try to be patient and give the benefit of the doubt, but after fifteen minutes we stood up and started to leave. Someone finally saw us leaving and asked what was wrong! Hello, people! We ended up going to IHOP and had a great time.

  • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

    Pete should have been treated like the most important person in the world, because that’s what smart customers want. I agree that some people are not deserving of consideration when their requests are ridiculous or they treat the staff at a business inappropriately. So to me, great customer service does not mean letting people walk all over you, but to show genuine interest in them. Some times serving means letting the customer go, as you would a team member.

    In this case, the manager lost a precious opportunity to salvage a relationship and the fact the the company went down shows the damaging effects of such an attitude.

    • http://CorporateCultureRevolution.com/ Bob Winchester

      Well said Lily!

      “Some times serving means letting the customer go, as you would a team member.” Outstanding point!

      I’ve had to let a few customers go over the years. That’s never a fun experience. However, it doesn’t take long to know that you made the right decision.

  • Jaselyn

    This reminds me of a time two weeks ago when I went to close a checking account with a big bank because I could no longer waive my monthly fees, so I had switched over to a smaller bank with free checking. I expected the banker to ask why I was closing my account and to pitch me on different ways to waive my monthly fee, but he didn’t do any of that.

    Granted, I probably would still have closed the account, but it’s nice to have people fight for you, and if he could have found a good way to remove the fees for me, I probably would have left it open, at least for a while longer. It left me feeling uneasy that he didn’t even TRY to keep my business.

  • http://www.GregLGilbert.com/ Greg L. Gilbert

    Pete should’ve been questioned about why he was leaving and asked what the boss could do to keep his business. If Pete gave answers, the boss should’ve made every effort to salvage Pete’s business. I use the word boss because this is the boss/employee attitude that is killing American business. It is the total opposite of the Leader/Owner mindset. Because this boss is also placing the livelihood of every team member at risk, I would also contact corporate by phone, e-mail and letter. I also agree with the comment about team member treatment.

    “Person who will not listen will first be surrounded by people who will not talk before eventually being surrounded by no one.” gg

  • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

    Un-be-liev-able! How should Pete have been treated? As if the manager’s entire future rested in satisfying Pete – as if the manager’s entire team’s future rested in satisfying Pete – as if the future of the company itself- rested in satisfying Pete! And in a way – it did. Pete was probably just one of thousands who were treated with indifference – and the result is a defunct company. A lesson to us all – EVERY CUSTOMER COUNTS.

  • Steve Pate

    Hands down the manager should have taken at least the time to listen to the reasons why Pete was leaving.

  • Rob McDowell

    Pete should have been treated like a person, not a problem. Obviously, with the manager’s reaction, there was much more going on in that organization. I see that reaction to a customer as just one symptom to a larger problem. I would have told the manager to look for another job because the ship he was on was sinking!

    • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

      Unfortunately, Rob, if this was the manager’s attitude, he might contribute to the sinking of the next ship he boards! No matter what a company’s problems, we are all responsible for OUR attitude – and sounded like this manager had a BAD attitude!

  • Wade_Thorson

    If the manager would have been open to listen to Pete, and discuss a plan and areas they could improve their customer servce Pete may have stayed. But more importantly it would have helped improved the experience for all future cutomers.
    I am actually in the process of doing a internal customer survey to evaluate my team’s customer service.

    • Steve Pate

      agreed

  • http://caroldublin.com/ Carol Dublin

    I coached my teams to consider every customer a guest in our store, and to treat them as such. No, they are not always right, but we did everything we could to make them feel welcome, valued and taken care of. I definitely would have offered a sit down with a cup of coffee (on the house) to find out what went wrong.

    Honestly, it should have not made it to the point where Pete was leaving before the manager found out there was a problem. If problems had been addressed along the way, then it wouldn’t have come to taking his business elsewhere.

    • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

      Carol – love that you coach your teams to this! Treating our customers as more than just a payday – but a GUEST – love it.

    • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

      I would be appalled if a guest came to my house and left abruptly. I would definitely do anything in my power to understand how I could have served them better. Great stuff Carol!

    • http://CorporateCultureRevolution.com/ Bob Winchester

      I love that idea! The customer is a guest in our home…

    • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

      It just dawned on me when you said store…

      If I have been in Graceworks in the past 5 years, were you probably there? If so, ironically, we’ve met.

      • http://caroldublin.com/ Carol Dublin

        I started 4 1/2 years ago – so maybe we have and don’t realize. If not, when are you coming to Nashville?

  • David L.

    I tell my salespeople that everything they have purchased or funded since they started with our company has been paid for by the customer. The vacation they took this year, their 401k, their house, you get the picture. Why mistreat them? It’s corny but it puts the customer in perspective. They aren’t always right and sometimes they are downright frustrating. I also them our sales people that, if the customer is driving us crazy or is unreasonable, then it’s our fault. We solicited their business…What were we thinking?

    • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

      You nailed it, David – taking responsibility for the attitude of the customer. Sometimes they are wrong – sure – but many times they have an attitude because of poor customer service.

  • CabinetDoork

    The correct response : “Let’s grab a cup of coffee if you’ve got time. I really want to hear what you’ve got to say.”

    • http://jonahenry.com/ Jon Henry

      I’d like to amend this answer by replacing the mediocre word “coffee” with Dillanos, the official CloTribe brand.

      • CabinetDoork

        Have yet to have Dillanos.

        • Steve Pate

          your missing out. having one right now

        • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

          You can still use the promo code Jeremy. It’s SO good!

          • Steve Pate

            it didn’t work for me

            • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

              I’m looking into it. I’ll let you guys know.

              • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

                Well done Lily

            • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

              Spread the word. They’ve reactivated the promo code!!! Now THAT is great customer service!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/marriageculture Married Dude

    I can almost guarantee that when this same manager was approached with a problem by one of his employees, his response was the same. He didn’t want to know.

    • Steve Pate

      yep

  • Shawn W.

    This is why I never buy from Best Buy. Customer service from management level to floor is terrible. Alway pushing their services before duing & after the sale. I am a weird person in that I love customer service. I love providing customer service at a level that go above & beyond what is asked. I comes from God, because I was born with that attitude. It sometimes it hard when you have leaders who don’t appreciate it.

    • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

      Bam. Well said Shawn. I hate to say it, because I love good salespeople, but this is why I shop almost exclusively online now!