Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Customer Service // 01

Truth: I hated customer service when I worked in retail.

Which makes me feel like a hypocrite to write about it and talk about it in a way that makes it seem like I'm an advocate. But my issue is really with the connotation, not the action. I actually can't even stand the term "customer service" - it feels so corporate and cold and jargon-y. It's a term we throw around when we feel slighted by a company or want to impress people by making them think we offer a superior experience.

I want to rename it, to make it cool again. Like Justin Timberlake brought Sexy Back. Anytime I want to come up with a different moniker for a commonly used word or phrase, I turn to my good friend thesaurus.com to find some synonyms. Here's what I found:

Definition: buyer of goods, services
Synonyms: client, clientele, consumer, habituĂ©, patron, prospect, purchaser, regular shopper

Most of those synonyms also felt too corporate, so I went to client:

Definition: customer
Synonyms: applicant, believer, buyer, chump, consumer, dependent, disciple, follower, front, habitue, head, mark, patient, patron, protege, purchaser, shopper, walk-in, ward

Definition: aid, help
Synonyms: account, advantage, applicability, appropriateness, assistance, avail, benefit, business, check, courtesy, dispensation, duty, employ, employment, favor, fitness, indulgence, kindness, labor, maintenance, ministration, office, overhaul, relevance, serviceability, servicing, supply, use, usefulness, utility, value, work

What if, instead of Customer Service, we changed it to Follower Kindness or Believer Benefits or Patron Help? Because isn't that what we're really doing - or should be doing? It's so easy to look at customer service the way I looked at it when I was in retail - a necessary evil of breaking rules to keep customers. But if we look at it that way, we're missing the point. 

They say that a brand is a multitude of experiences and that the way you feel after an experience will either turn you away or keep you coming back for more. Experiences are powerful things…and, in business, often directly related to how we service our clients. Service is the act of serving, something I think that, all too often, we forget is at the heart of what we do.

And when we look at it that way, customer service isn't just a tool we should pull out when a miscommunication happens or a client gets upset. It should be a standard we set for ourselves in every interaction, looking for ways we can SERVE the people who support us. Aren't our followers, our believers, really the ones who are doing us the favor?

I'll leave you with an example of great service that I experienced last week. Most companies have "cannot be combined with any other offer" in the fine print of their coupons/rewards/incentives, and it's something we've come to expect when shopping…and work around. I went to order something last week from Shootsac and had an old gift certificate and a birthday discount. There was only one discount code box, and nowhere to enter my gift certificate number. When I emailed the support address for help, I totally expected them to say the gift certificate had expired or that I couldn't combine the offers…and I had my panties in a ruffle ready to challenge it. But to my surprise, the person on the other side of the computer was so kind and offered to combine the two into one discount code that I could use for my purchase…and to top it off, he rounded up $5. I emailed back in such excitement telling him that he was pretty much the best person in the whole world and that I would be a Shootsac customer for life.

The best part about that experience was that it literally made my day. Throughout the rest of that afternoon and evening, I approached the rest of my activities with gratefulness, which in turn made me feel happier and friendlier, all because someone had shown me a kindness that I may or may not have deserved, and really without a reason. It's a small step that made a difference in my life - one that I plan to remember and pay forward.

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