Excellent Customer Service is one of the clichéd catch phrases that every company SAYS is important to them, but too few seem to really emulate.
As someone with a background in customer service in multitude of industries, I’ve seen firsthand the importance of making sure customers feel valued in their interactions with a company. And now in my role helping companies identify where their experiences fall short and how they can fix the issue, I pay more attention than ever to where there is room for improvement when it comes to the customer journey. I recently experienced a poorly managed situation in my interaction with a major retailer, and wanted to share my analysis to ensure other companies can learn to embrace customer needs.
Having just returned from a trip to Europe I was amazed that the service in Australia is worse than the worst experience we received in 3 weeks in Dublin, London or Paris. I have just been in KMART to by some picture frames for some art we bought. I chose the frames and they had 3 on shelf, I needed 4. When I enquired if they had a forth out the back, the “customer service” person sighed and said “Oh I don’t know and you will have to wait at least ten minutes for me to look”. This was fine with us as we were not expecting an answer there and then but we were made to feel that we were putting her out.
We proceeded to the checkout, now inconveniently positioned in the centre of the store, to pay for the Items that we had. The que was extremely long but luckily there was a person there to “bark” commands at the customers such as “card only?” I assumed it was a question as the intonation went up at the end, and this was followed with a look of distain and a pointed finger at a self-service machine.
The items we were buying were larger than normal bags would hold so I asked the lady “barking customer service specialist” if there were larger bags. She kindly pointed and said “over there”. While balancing the oversized items on the undersized self-service checkout I went past the KMART employee and retrieved the larger bag without smashing my items.
Well that’s over and we go for a coffee to wait the allotted 10 minutes for the other “customer service” to check for the 4th picture frame. No, they did not have one in stock. The 3 similar on display could not be sold to customers and the customer service person pointed out that they must be destroyed after the have been used on the display…..
I have had a lifelong career working in industries which boast high standards for customer service (i.e. impeccable and unequivocal). And thus, I am sensitive in my daily interactions with any type of business to how they approach and engage their customers. Having a background in hospitality, advertising, retail, health and sales – each very different, but all extremely customer-centric – a focus on service is cornerstone for how I see the world. Whether it meant working in the office past midnight because a client changed an entire ad campaign that was due the next day, or being able to empathize, strategize and counsel someone who has struggled and failed numerous times to grow their business, creating a personalized customer experience was the differentiator that made them appreciate my help and stay loyal customers.
This recent experience completely missed the boat, and caused me frustration and irritation. I wanted to share what happened in hopes other businesses can learn from this company’s mistake and improve a good customer experience.
Please let me know if you believe I am being to harsh or are my standards to high to expect people to “want” to help rather than “just be there”.
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