customer service is dead

The left front tyre of my car got punctured in motion this morning. I may not be able to share all the events that followed right now, but I can definitely use one of them to prove the point I have been insisting for over a quarter of a decade now. That customer service is dead!

I was driving at 80 kilometres per hour on 3rd Mainland Bridge. I was on my way to Oriental Hotel where Jobberman, Nigeria’s top Jobs Site, was holding the second edition of their HR Breakfast. Though I saw the invitation late, I decided to go out of my way to attend despite an extremely busy schedule. Although my tyre puncturing on my way there made me feel really bad, it led to the inspiration I got to write this. (I felt better at the time I got there. Kudos to Jobberman). Is Customer Service really dead or am I just being dramatic?

What customer service means now?

Customer Service mean different things to different people. But generally, these days, people in “customer service” are those you speak with when you need to be helped with something you usually do not need help with everyday. For example, in banking, you may never need to have contact with them again after opening your bank account until you need a Debit/Credit Card, Counter Cheque or you have a problem with your account like double debit, unauthorized debit and so on. In telecommunications, you may have no business with their customer service unless you have a problem with your phone line.

What customer service is supposed to be

Customer service is supposed to be a concerted effort to ensure that customers are always happy and comfortable when interacting with the brand. It is the culture of ensuring that everyone in the organization is always engaged in activities that will make the customer’s experience to tend towards making them raving fans of the brand. This all means that the customer is

  1. Happy whenever they use our service or product.
  2. Helped courteously whenever they need an assistance.
  3. Is allowed to express themselves whenever they want to.
  4. Always asked “is there anything else I can help you with? Anything?!”
  5. Tolerated and courteously corrected when it seems like they are overstepping their boundaries.
  6. Contacted when they are not interacting with the brand. They should also be contacted when they are interacting with the brand and not the reps of the brand.
  7. Made to feel special on special days such as birthdays and anniversaries. It means that the organization never misses a significant event such as wedding, child christening and so on in the life of the customer. They should know within two weeks if the customer dies and contact their family immediately!
  8. Is the focus of everyone in the organization. Every staff in organization is always asking “how many customers have I made happy today?”

I can go on and on but I guess I should stop here. But #8 above covers it all.

My experience with customer service today

After my tyre punctured, two Mechanics patrolling the longest West African bridge came upon me. They quickly advised that I continue driving to avoid my car being towed by officials of LASTMA (Lagos State Traffic Management Authority) for obstruction. So I had no option than to drive very slowly to the nearest Police Post on the bridge.

Since I left my tyre with a Vulcanizer yesterday, I didn’t have any spare in the car. So it was very clear that I have to buy another one. After a hot bargaining session, one of them went on a motorcycle to go bring a fairly used tyre.

When we finished fixing the tyre, it was time for me to pay. So I drove them to a branch of one of the banks I use for my corporate accounts.

Remember I was feeling unhappy because I was about to spend unbudgeted money. As I walked into the bank, I met two attractive ladies seated on the customer service section of the bank.

“I left my cheque book at the office,” I began with a forced smile. “And I do not have an ATM card to my corporate account. I need cash. My tyre got punctured on 3rd Mainland Bridge this mornin…”

“So,” she interrupted impatiently. “What you need is a counter cheque.”

I know, don’t I?

The little enthusiasm I just mustered went crashing down.

“What is the charge for…” I began to ask.

“Its very cheap,” she said curtly, interrupting me again. “It’s just two hundred and ten naira.”

She slapped an A4 form on the desk and continued singing Westlife’s “Swear it Again” that was playing in the branch. And totally ignored me.

I was well dressed. Remember I was on my way to an HR Breakfast meeting. I wondered how I would be treated if I were wearing just a T Shirt and a pair of Jeans. I could not help but notice her partner, who was also singing, helping a customer with his internet banking app.

It was when I finished filling the form and handed it to her that she looked at me again.

This chic is cold.

I got irritated because I know better.

Same Everywhere

I get a very warm reception in the branch I frequent because they somehow know me there now. But I have also noticed that the branch does not even treat everyone with same courtesy. While some of us get that very warm treatment there, other people barely get noticed. This is probably because they are more inclined to being nice to people who have a very good cash flow than others. And that is epic wrong! The guy who does not have a good cash flow today might have tomorrow.

The Bank

I know you really want to know which bank it is. But I will not disclose their identity. But the bank invests heavily on advertising. They even advertise on CNN. My free advise to that bank would have been for them to stop spending too much on adverts and start looking inwards. They should overhaul or enforce whatever culture they have built their customer service programme on. I understand that some customers are more equal than others but nobody wants to take nonsense.

What’s in it for you?

I told you this because I am sure that many organizations are also like this. I want to suggest that you take a very good look at your customer service again. Are clients now getting normal treatments? Normal treatment will not keep customers as soon as a good competitor is in view. In fact, stop!!!

Legendary Service

You need to get rid of customer service. Remember it is now dead! You now need to replace customer service with LEGENDARY SERVICE. Legendary service creates Empowered Customers. Empowered customers are those who become raving fans.

Tomorrow Post

This is what I will be writing on tomorrow. Kindly lets pause our work on ideas. We will go back to that by Monday.

I want to hear your thoughts on this. Kindly tell me the bad experience you have had with customer service in the comment section below.