Thursday, July 19, 2012

Good Service? You Can Lead The Charge!

I have spent a good deal of my time lately, observing and writing about the seemingly ever-growing proliferation of bad customer service in North America. I have written about my own specific experiences with bad service; I have reported on Intellectual studies on bad service, and I have made recommendations on how to improve bad service. I have, grumbled, groused and whinged about the poor customer service we all experience in all sorts of businesses these days and how managers at all levels seems to be either impotent or powerless to generate any sort of tangible improvement.
Finding fault is a common pastime amongst writers because it is easier and more sensational than writing about the good around us. However, today I decided that I would lead a small but genuine charge up the hill of enmity and antagonism by offering heartfelt thanks to some men and women who serve us well and make our world a better place. If everyone would follow the example of just a few good people we would all be able to spend much less time moaning about service and spend much more time enjoying our lives.
We have become a world of complainers and our complaints appear to have become ubiquitous, self-fulfilling prophecies, but perhaps if we all take on the responsibility of thanking other people for the good things they do, more people will want to do good things so they too, can receive the gift of thanks.
Here are some thanks from me to a short list of great people who deserve a big helping of gratitude:
1.       Thank you to the men and women of the medical profession who despite constant and escalating budget cuts wake up every morning with the truly noble intention of saving lives and making the pain go away.
2.       Thanks to the waiter who greeted me as I walked through the door of his restaurant and made certain the service I received was so impeccable that my evening was even better than I had hoped.
3.       Thank you to the politicians who only garner attention when they do something wrong while attempting to satisfy everyone in their dominion on both sides of the political aisle.
4.       Thanks to the helpful young lady on the street who noticed that I appeared to be confused and stopped to ask if she could help me find my way.
5.       Thank you to the police and military men and women who despite being borne of ordinary human flesh are expected to always have hearts of lions and skin made of titanium.
6.       Thanks to the clothing-store clerk who acknowledged me, asked if she could help me, and made me feel very special when I tried on a new jacket.
7.       Thank you to the school teachers who are never paid very well but who do so much to shape our children’s minds while we are out making money to buy automobiles and three-door refrigerators.
8.       Thank you to all of the firemen, and all other emergency service personnel who willingly put their lives on the line so that others may live every time they suit up.
9.       Thanks to the hotel bellman who when sensing that I was not overjoyed with the room that was assigned to me, immediately moved me to a nicer room with a better view.
10.   Most importantly, thank you to everyone, everywhere who took a second from their day to look up and smile at me when I entered their field of view.
Good service is not complicated. It is merely an extension of normal, human kindness.
As much I am sometimes frustrated by the lack of kindness and altruism I find in many service providers of late, I believe that every person in the world who provides a service of any kind to other people is capable of selflessness and compassion for each person they serve. They are good people but many have lost their way. They have either forgotten, or never been made aware that their future depends on the customers who choose to deal or not to deal with them.
Business owners and managers should make a conscious effort to bring out the best in each and every one of their employees by providing the training and ongoing supervision necessary to make them competent, confident and poised. When a business fails to provide essential customer service tools to its employees, it does a great disservice to its customers, its workforce and its reputation.
If you want better service, try rewarding good service providers with courtesy, a smile and a heartfelt, “Thank You” ... Lead the charge! Let everyone know how much you value good service and you might just start a groundswell that will sweep the world.
All the Best!
Wayne Kehl

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bad Customer Service Exposed

One of the United Kingdom’s top authorities on business practices, The Henley Business School has released a paper which indicates that two-thirds of all customers surveyed believe service levels of retailers and various other service-oriented businesses are at an all time low. The report goes on to say that these firms are arrogant and make no effort to understand their customers

I must admit that I have no first-hand knowledge of business practices in the UK, but I can definitely state that I believe service levels are at an all time low in Canada and the United States. I travel extensively in both countries and have experienced some service issues that I would never have existed even twenty years ago. What I find most perplexing is that during the most economically challenging decade of the past 100 years, businesses everywhere are allowing customers to walk out their doors empty-handed while rude, lazy, disengaged employees continue to receive pay checks! So what is the problem?

Because I am in the business of leadership and personal development training, when I am faced with bad service, I attempt to analyze it and in some cases, I go so far as to point it out to the offending service provider or his/her manager. In most cases, I find businesses that provide bad service are not managed well. In fact, in extreme cases they appear not to be managed at all. Managers in many establishments have stopped being leaders. They have stopped engaging in old-fashioned, hands-on, disciplined leadership. They allow customers to be ignored, bad employee attitudes to live, and poor or non-existent service levels to be the norm.

Twenty-first century management has lost its way in many cases. Until managers start to hold their employees accountable and until managers themselves are held accountable by their bosses, service levels will continue to slide.

Although very important, leadership is about more than setting a good example. Managers should be constantly observing the behaviour of their employees and taking corrective action at the time bad service occurs. They should remove the bad service provider from the floor, away from customers as soon as it is appropriate and tell them what they did wrong.  Employees should know their responsibilities and their obligations to customers in all situations. When they fail to live up to those responsibilities, they must be reprimanded and if improvement does not occur, they should be terminated. Is that wrong? Is it wrong to demand that employees provide good service? If believing that is wrong, I must be living in the wrong century.

Managers should also be made to understand their obligations and responsibilities to customers, employees and their employer before they are allowed to manage. I can hardly believe that some of the nasty, rude, dismissive, and absent service I have witnessed, was carried out while someone with the title of manager was actually on the premises. In many of these cases, the bad service was not even isolated to one or two people. In some cases I have seen establishments with dozens of employees who seemed not to want to provide service to any customers. If you own a retail or service-oriented business, do you know what is going on with your employees? Do you care?

The typical reasons cited for bad service include “too busy, understaffed, new employees and the computers are down.” All of these are simply excuses for bad management. Most importantly, managers who give these excuses are generally poor leaders. They make excuses rather than simply owning up to their responsibilities for bad service and holding themselves accountable. Managers with poor leadership skills are also generally afraid of confrontation. Rather than disciplining a bad service provider, they tend to look the other way and hope that no one notices. Unfortunately for them, as the Henley Business School has pointed out, the world is noticing...big time!

Billions of dollars are lost to bad service world-wide every year. That trend will not improve until the retailers and other service providers take the initiative to regain control by holding managers and employees accountable for impeccable service.

I am looking forward to a future rife with great service. To that end, l would appreciate it you would send me examples of good service that you have recently experienced. Let me have the names and locations of those businesses and I will post them on this blog so that readers will know where the best service providers are. I will not however, post the names and locations of bad service providers because there are simply too many of them!

Please email your good-service examples along with your contact information to wkehl@dlionline.ca.

All the Best!

Wayne Kehl

If you would like some help to improve the customer service levels of your business, please get in touch with us. You can find out more about Dynamic Leadership at www.dlionline.ca .