Customer No Service

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best, how would you rate your customer service? Notice that I did not say your “customer service department”. I am referring to your entire business, because each of your employees is (or should be) in the customer service business. Your customers, after all, are your most important assets, for without them, you have no business.

Stew Leonard, founder of the famous Connecticut grocery store chain that bears his name, proudly displays the following sign in his flagship store:

Rule #1: The customer is always right.

Rule #2: If you ever think the customer is wrong, read Rule #1 again.

The point that Stew is obviously making is that the goal of his organization is to provide excellent customer service. Serve the customer…serve the customer better than anyone else! Is it any wonder that Stew’s business is wildly successful and profitable?

So I ask you again, how would you rate your organization on customer service?

One of my favorite radio personalities, Clark Howard, uses a portion of every program to discuss what he calls “customer no service” — a reference to the exceedingly low levels of customer service provided by many organizations.

I am sure that, if you review your own personal experiences, you could readily give me examples of various times where you:

– were treated rudely by a sales clerk or employee of a company

– spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone — on hold — waiting for customer service — only to find them to be of no value or assistance whatever.

I have experienced this a number of times when trying to get warranty service on my computers. Inevitably, I wind up speaking with someone from a foreign country whose understanding of the English language is barely passable, and whose computer skills are even worse. Need I say more?

What I find strange is that when business leaders are looking for ways to create a competitive advantage for their organizations, one of the last places they tend to look is in the area of improving customer service.

Let me ask you some foundational questions:

1. Other than the people in your company who have direct customer contact, how many of your employees have had any orientation to customer service?

2. If I took a survey in your business and asked each employee how what they do impacts the level of customer service you provide to your customers, how many of them could tell me and give me concrete examples?

3. Does an attitude of customer service pervade your entire organization, from the CEO’s office to the janitor’s closet? If not, why not and what are you going to do about it?

For question #3, let me tell you a quick story. When I was the Vice President of Operations for an $80 million manufacturer of precious metal products, one of the employees I loved most was Ron, our head custodian. One night, as I was leaving the building, I saw Ron polishing the tile floor near the main conference room. I complimented him on his fine work and how the floor was spotless and shone with the high gloss of the wax he’d applied. I asked why he was staying late to do the floors and his reply nearly knocked me over. He said, “I talk with Debbie in the sales department and she always lets me know when we have customers coming in for a meeting or a plant tour. I always try to keep the building looking perfect, but when I know a customer is coming in, I make sure that everything is just right. After all, without our customers, I wouldn’t have a job.”


So, I ask you one more time — how would you rate your overall organization on customer service? If it’s less than a 10, you are not delighting your customers, you are not taking advantage of a wonderful competitive advantage, and you need to call us right now for your free consultation.

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