Expecting Excellence- Receiving Mediocre

For over 30 years I’ve worked in customer service. It’s been amazing to me how corporations expect excellent customer service. The expectation is for the representative to be able to secure the sale in a professional manner without conceding to what the customer wants. The downside of this is that there’s a lot of competition out there. Customers are frustrated with businesses because not only is money tight due to the pandemic but also the expectation of being able to pay out more money when they’re not making more money which becomes extremely frustrating. There is a huge perception of greed that exists in society. The cost for everything continues to go up with the exception of what people are making. The problem becomes that if we increase the amount of the minimum wage everything else will still continue to climb. The politicians are not acknowledging this fact.

My Internet provider just went up on me $20 a month. I tried to shop around but there’s no one in my area that carries this service. The unfortunate thing is that the Internet provider has a monopoly on this market and they know it. This makes it more difficult to do any type of competitive shopping. Therefore the customer service representatives have little to no flexibility in helping the customer find the best deal possible. The customer service reps are on the front line. They receive the biggest part of the complaints. Supervisors expect them to be able to de-escalate the problems. Unfortunately, many of the companies do not appreciate their employees enough to provide them with adequate tools and skills to do this. Many times someone with more power will speak to the customer. Yet, they are conditioned to not provide excellence. They are conditioned to do as the company says and not necessarily do the right thing.

Everybody is about the dollar and while it does take money to make this world go on, it also takes an understanding that many people have lost their jobs throughout this pandemic. It is not inconceivable to work with the customers. When of the main issues that I have discovered is that when a customer brings to representatives attention issues that need to be addressed, the businesses should pay better attention to customers’ comments. What bothers me is many of the jobs that have opened up, deal with the public. The public can be hateful to those who are in restaurants, retail businesses, corporate areas, and the medical world. I’m sure it’s hateful to many other professions that I didn’t mention. Anytime we deal with the public, we have the potential to encounter less than stellar service. One of the bankers that I deal with on a regular basis has told of customers that treat bank employees as if they are servants. I’ve gone through Drive Thru’s at various restaurants where the employees were less than cordial. It was almost as if they detested their job and were not reprimanded for it, and yet, many of them are the same folks screaming for $15 an hour. That is not to say that many jobs dp not need a pay increase. Servers in restaurants and bars have been underpaid for a long time. There have been too many people who stiff the staff. There should be a consideration for the fact that many servers make at least $2.13 an hr plus tips. Some make more but a majority of them deal with bad attitudes, demanding customers, kitchens that mess up orders, and management that doesn’t always recognize employees for their hard work. Rather, the employees are made to feel inferior many times. It’s a tough, demanding, physical, job that can only be defined as underappreciated. The best employees are the ones who can keep smiling through the customers who make them want to walk off their jobs.

Here’s the problem that I see. Please correct me if I’m wrong. More companies than ever are having customer service become extinct. I have lost count of the number of robocalls I receive from various companies. There was once a time where customer service skills were imperative to a company succeeding. That is no longer the case. The argument could be made that companies demand excellence. Yet, many of their employees come across as argumentative, with a lack of compassion or care, and have been substituted with the world of AI. My issue has become one of the lack of respect that businesses have for the employees and customers. Companies are conditioned to rake in money. There are some companies that are the exception to this rule but a vast majority of them have employees that should not be allowed to speak with customers the way they do. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we should not take for granted people and their money. There are too many places that have gone under to not recognize the need for excellence in companies. Businesses assume much but those assumptions can be dangerous if the employees represent them in a negative light. Employers are quick to terminate an employee if something is posted on social media that can cast that employee and their employer in a negative light. Unfortunately, it can take something as blatant as this kind of action for employers to recognize problems within their company.

I’ve often heard that we are all replaceable. Most of the time that statement is true. However, there have been employees in various companies that stood out. Sure, their jobs can be replaced, but replacing their skills with customers is not as easy. We can’t just assume that a job is easily replaced. We may be able to fill the void with someone else’s body but filling those shoes can be difficult. It’s imperative to understand your customer base. Here are a few tips that I think all employers should consider.

  • Hire the right people, and treat them well. Your employees are a reflection of you and your company. If you treat them poorly, chances are they will reflect poorly on your company. They may do a good job for you but they could also be planning to take over for you or go into direct competition with you. Business is business but people should always be at the top of any business model because it takes people to make a business work and work well.
  • Deftly manage customer expectations. I’m not saying that you should give the customer everything they want. However, listen to your customers. They are the definition of success. They know what they want and what they expect. If you can meet and exceed those expectations, you will have a strong following. If not, people will talk about their experiences, and word of mouth can kill a business.
  • Nail your first impression. We are all judged on first impressions whether we like it or not. That’s why it’s crucial to not only impress from the start but to maintain that impression. Once you lose it, you won’t get another chance, or if you do, you better not waste it.
  • Collect as much data as you can — and use it. This is crucial. Data and numbers help define areas that are strongest and weakest. It’s that kind of information that can make or break a business and it helps mold your employees for excellence.
  • Personalize the relationship. The business may be business but if nothing else, it should be a personal experience. After all, repeat business happens because of the quality of the products and quality of service that customers receive.
  • Be where your customers are. This requires Listening. This is a skill many businesses are forgetting. Don’t get trapped in a negative mindset with this. It’s a skill that needs to be consistently sharpened and utilized.
  • Maintain your focus. When a business loses focus, that helps it deteriorate quickly. Don’t be a statistic.

I think we have all encountered mediocre to poor customer service relations at some point in our lives. How did that experience make you feel? I know we all have bad times in our lives and don’t always deal with situations well, but it’s important to remember that if we don’t perform our jobs well, then companies can always replace us. Remember how you felt when you got bad service. Take those memories and turn them around so that you don’t repeat the mistakes of others. No job is better than someone else’s. If you look at many of the CEO’s, Doctors, attorneys, and high powered professionals, many of them age quicker than others. Those that don’t seem to age often have plastic surgery. Why? Can you imagine the stress they have? All of us are geared to perform stressful jobs. Not all of us are responsible for running major corporations. But we are responsible for the impressions that we leave behind and as long as we are giving our best to any job we have, then we have nothing to hang our heads in shame over. I truly believe that all of us have the power to represent our jobs and things that are important to us well. Sometimes we need to be reminded that even our bad days can make someone else’s day worse. Don’t get caught in the politics of work or the world. Give yourselves the power to present an image of superior quality to others. Who knows? It might be a stepping stone to something more. If nothing else, it will leave your customers happier and feeling more confident about the business you represent.

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