Some people say that customer service is not what it used to
be. That point registered with me recently through an observation made by my
12-year-old son. We were shopping at a local department store, taking advantage
of great deals on men’s clothing. As we checked out, the sales associate was
very pleasant and talkative. She told us about other sale items and even about
purse snatchings that had taken place at area stores.
We walked away and my son remarked “she sure was full of
herself, wasn’t she!” When I asked what he meant, he said that she talked a
lot. I paused momentarily and it hit me why he made that observation: That
level of personal touch has become the exception rather than the rule in
customer service. “That is how it is supposed to be” was my response. Traditionally, department
stores have been known for delivering a personal touch. Sadly, that experience is delivered less frequently today. My
professional career in marketing began in retail management for a department
store. Our associates were required to write 10 thank-you notes to customers
weekly. Timely approach of customers was expected. Sales associates were to be
more than cashiers and serve as a resource to customers.
My son’s perceptions of what customer service is (and is not)
have been shaped by mostly unremarkable interactions with service providers. Not
necessarily bad service, but not the kind of experiences that you walk away
from and go “wow – that was great.” A generation is being acclimated to
“service” being driven by technologies such as self-checkout and online
ordering. Measures of service quality are based more on the reliability of the
technology than the personal attention given.
It almost sounds funny to say that conversation can be a
brand differentiator. But, my son’s take on what is extraordinary customer
service suggests that a personal touch has the ability to stand out in an
environment that is often more concerned with transaction efficiency. Embrace the art
of conversation – show customers that you value their business and more
importantly that you value them.
Labels: Customer Relationships, Customer Service, Retailing