Friday, January 4, 2008

Customer Service

I spent this New Year’s weekend like you may have: I hung out with family, watched a little football and tried to tackle a home improvement project. That project took me to not one, but two, home improvement stores: The Home Depot and Lowe’s. And I had lousy customer service at each store. At The Home Depot, I was buying a storm door and had to talk to someone at the “customer service” counter. We talked about the door and then she handed me her scanning gun, asking me to scan the door and actually saying that she was “too lazy” to walk around the counter and scan it herself. As I scanned the door, she blearily rubbed her face and told me that she had stayed up all night the night before. Since that had been New Year’s Eve, she probably wasn’t the only one who had stayed up later than usual, but I knew they were closing early on New Year’s Day, so I tried to cheerfully add that “at least you close soon, right?” “Yeah, thank God. I can’t wait until Five O’clock,” was her reply.

Over at Lowe’s, I brought my handful of items to the checkout counter, and the cashier asked if I found everything I was looking for. I said yes and she continued scanning my items. As she handed me my receipt, she said, “Here you go.” It still strikes me as odd when customers aren’t thanked for their business, but I thanked her and then wished her a happy New Year’s. She was unfazed. She didn’t blink, she didn’t smile, she didn’t say anything.

Both of these experiences got me to thinking about our customers and our customer service. What kind of message are we sending to our customers: our listeners? How many calls do you answer during one show? Several? Dozens? Hundreds? Even if you do have hundreds of “customer” calls that you answer each day, you should treat each call like it’s your only call, because for a given listener who calls you, they’re (probably) not calling you hundreds of times a day, they’re calling you once. If you have one bad call in 100, you can say that 1% of your calls were bad. But if they have one bad call, and it’s the only call they made, that’s 100% for them.

And what about face-to-face interaction: remotes and personal appearances? How many hands do you shake and babies do you kiss? Each interaction could be leaving a lasting impression. Sure, you’re human. Maybe you’re sick. Maybe you tossed and turned all night last night. Who hasn’t been there? But, for the most part, listeners don’t care that you may be having a bad day. They’ve got their own problems. On some level, some listeners may be empathetic, but what memory is going to stick with them longer? The fact that you’re human and weren’t 100% when they talked to you, or the feeling they got when you let them know they’re appreciated and valued as a customer?

Will every listener you talk to end up being a lifelong friend and fan? Probably not. But negative impressions have a way of sticking around. What kind of message are you sending to your “customers”? By delivering good customer service and making each one of your listeners feel important, you’re setting yourself up for success.

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