Business Transformation

Customer Service Is DEAD: Now What?

Mitche Graf

Traditional customer service (CS) in the business world is officially DEAD! We are now in a world that demands things faster, more conveniently and cheaper- and we have given up much our demand for exceptional service.

If we go to the drive-thru to get our morning caffeine and only have to wait 20 minutes in line to get our $5 latte and a forced smile from the barista, we are happy and tip them a couple bucks.

If we only have to wait on hold for 10 minutes to talk with our banker about getting a new car loan, we feel fortunate.

And if our server at our favorite restaurant only has to be reminded twice about refilling our water, it’s a great day!

Long gone are the days when you pulled into a “Service Station” to get gas and were met by a wonderful smile and a “Good morning, can I fill you up today with our premium grade gasoline so that your engine works more efficiently? And while you’re here, I’ll check under the hood to make sure your fluid levels are good and that you don’t have any other issues. I’ll also give a quick check of your tire pressure and clean your windshield while you wait.”

We would pull in for gas, a common commodity, and instead were given a vast plethora of unexpected services that were provided for free, all because you chose to do business at that particular station. And oh ya, we got gas also while we were there.

I can remember when I was a teenager going to the service station on the corner next to my high school just because I thought it was fun to watch the employees work. But guess what… anytime I needed gas I would only go to that station. I was loyal to the people that worked there, loyal to the brand name, and addicted to the feeling that I got whenever I would pull in. It made me feel special and valued. To this day I still go get the same brand of gas because of my memories of days gone by. 

Today, we pull into the gas station (no, they don’t call them service stations anymore!), get out of the car to pump our own gas and slide our debit card ourselves. If we want our windshield washed or our oil checked, we must do it ourselves. 

And if we are paying cash we have to go inside and wait in line in order to prepay. If our car doesn’t take all of the money that we paid, we have to go back in and stand in line again just to get the change. If we get a smile and a thank you, those are complete bonuses.

By the time we get back in our car to leave, we feel stressed and rushed, not to mention smelly from the gas on our hands. 

As the digital revolution continues to turn most traditional businesses on their heads, so too has the decrease in the importance of having actual humans at the front lines of a business. The Internet has taken away much of the human interaction that just a few short years ago was vitally important to business survival.

Shopping for groceries, buying a movie ticket, getting a hot dog at a baseball game, or simply stopping at the bank to make a deposit. In our lives, these are all touch points when we have the opportunity for conversation with a frontline employee during your purchase.

If I’m not greeted with at least a short and friendly “Hello, how are you today”, or a brief moment of eye contact, I have no problem saying “Hello, don’t forget to greet your customers” or “Don’t forget to smile at your customers”! It’s not that I expect to have a real conversation but do expect to at least be shown a little consideration since I’m the one paying their wage!

It drives my wife and kids crazy when I do it, but it’s something I feel strongly about. To most retail and service-type businesses, they must depend on having those frontline folks represent their brand at the highest levels, but for some unknown reason that skill has not been given the importance that it once had. In my opinion it is becoming a dying art.

If you are even a little like me, you feel the same way. We expect to have a basic level of customer service when we have some sort of interaction with a business. Get it right and they continue to get our support. Blow it and we will be happy to tell our friends and family about our bad experience.

When you hear about the accolades of the best hotels and restaurants around the world, you typically hear about the “5-Star” ratings that they have. To them, and to the customers they serve, that means they are the absolute best at what they do. There’s no better number than to be given 5 stars.

There is a wide variety of rating systems used by different organizations around the world. Many have a system involving stars, with a greater number of stars indicating greater luxury. Forbes Travel Guide, formerly Mobil Travel Guide, launched its star rating system in 1958. The AAA uses diamonds instead of stars to express hotel and restaurant ratings levels.

5-Stars is the equivalent of 2-thumbs up for a movie, or 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Basically, it means that a business can’t do any better in taking care of its’ customers.

Let’s talk the star rating concept for a little walk around the block- 

It’s Friday night and you decide to order delivery for your family of 5. Everybody votes on Chinese, so you visit the internet to take a look at the menu for “Chu’s Palace”, the family favorite. The website is professionally done, the menu is simple to understand, and the phone number is front and center.

When you call, the phone is answered right before the 2nd ring by a happy voice that says, “Good evening, Chu’s Palace, how can I help you?” You place your order, the person on the phone give you a total and says that your food will be there in 30 minutes. You say thank you and hang up the phone. 

Thirty minutes later there’s a knock on the door and when you open it you are greeted by a well-dressed young man who says “Hello, I have your order from Chu’s, your total is $62.55. You pull out 4/$20’s, hand it to him, tell him to keep the change, and say thank you. He gives you one last smile as he tells you to have a good evening and to enjoy the food.

The smells that are coming out of the bag are making you even more hungry than you already were, and you are ready to dive in. Your family devours their food in no time flat, you each read your fortune cookie, and all agree that everything was good.

Most people would say that this service deserves 5-stars. Would you agree? There was nothing about the experience that went sideways, and everything was exactly as you expected. Not less than expected, and not more. Exactly.

So, let’s break this down a bit further-

– 5-Stars means you met my expectations, didn’t drop any balls, I didn’t have any issues, and everything was as expected. This is the case in my example. Everything was AOK!

– 4-Star service means you may have met my expectations, but maybe the driver was 10 minutes late.

– 3-Star service means you kind of met my expectations, but the driver was 10 minutes late, and my food was cold.

– 2-Star service means you didn’t really meet my expectations, driver was 10 minutes late, my food was cold, and the person on the phone was a little rude.

– 1-Star service means you didn’t meet my expectations at all, the driver was 10 minutes late, my food was cold, the person on the phone was a little bit rude, PLUS I didn’t even like the food!

I’ve heard people even say that they would have given a business a 0-Star review if that was an option….something that should make ANY business owner cringe.

To me, it sure seems that there isn’t any way to reward a business if they go above and beyond our expectations. What if when you called the restaurant, they called you by your first name because your name came up on their caller ID? What if they included complimentary egg flower soup with your order, and what if the driver showed up in 20 minutes instead of 30? What if when you answered your door, the driver once again used your first name when he handed you the bags, and what if he also gave you a $5 gift card that was good towards your next family dine-in date night? 

And then, what if they sent you an email the next day with some recipes that you can try at home, along with a coupon for your next visit. And then, what if they sent you a special “Happy Birthday” card with signatures from all the employees wishing you well, and what if you when you ordered the fixins from them for your annual holiday party at your office, their staff spent extra time helping you set everything up? Now, none of this is rocket science or difficult, but I think we all can agree that we would feel very good about doing business with this company. In fact, I venture to say that we would consider ourselves BIG fans and will probably let friends and co-workers about how great they are to do business with.

This company will have earned the coveted and mystical 6thstar in your book.

So, here’s your challenge….Grab yourself a pen and paper, a good cup of coffee, and hit the easy chair and I want you to do these 3 things- First of all, I want you to put yourself in the shoes of your perfect customer, and take a look at your business from their perspective, NOT yours. We all tend to get tunnel vision and get stuck in ruts when it comes to making the customer experience the best it can be. Evaluate every aspect of the customer experience when someone comes into your business, or experiences you online, or some other point of contact. While you are doing this, you should find some areas that perhaps aren’t as efficient and customer-centric as they could be, and this is great news. It just means there’s room for improvement! 

 

The other part of this first step is to bring your customers into the project. What do they love about your company, what do they not love about you, and what suggestions can they give on ways to improve their experience with you? This can be a simple as picking up the phone and calling a small handful of your customers that you feel will give you honest feedback.

Another way is to have customer satisfaction surveys available for people to fill out, whether it be in person or online. If you already have customers surveys that you have people fill out, great, if not, then this is your chance to develop a short questionnaire that will provide you with valuable information. So, now you have 2 data sets…your own perspective, and your customers’ perspective.

Second, I want you to write down what would make YOU an avid customer of your business…and don’t put any limitations on what your mind spits out, write it all down! What would it take for your business to deliver not only a 5-Star experience, but to earn that coveted and mystical 6thstar? Which of your systems are causing you the biggest headaches when it comes to a having a smooth relationship with your customer? Is there a need to completely break those systems down to the smallest moving pieces, then rebuild them with fewer moving pieces? Everything must be on the table for this exercise.

And last, I want you to begin the work of re-creating that customer experience from the ground up. I realize that this may take some time, some serious evaluation, and perhaps some additional resources to complete…. but it’s important that you begin the process NOW. Make a plan, set some goals on how you are going to measure your progress, and begin the work of creating an atmosphere around your business that allows your customers to have a 6-Star feeling each and every time they do business with you.

I am so excited to have launched my new book “Customer Service Is DEAD: Delivering 6-Star Service In A 1-Star World” and it’s now available on Amazon and other fine book stores. 

If you keep this philosophy in the front of your mind in everything that your business does, I can guarantee that you will revolutionize your entire mindset, and before long you will find yourself growing by leaps and bounds!


Authored by Mitche Graf.
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Mitche Graf
Lifestyle entrepreneur, best-selling author, serial entrepreneur, international-renowned business speaker, 2-time nationally-syndicated radio show host, and former All American Track & Field athlete Mitche Graf has been a passionate serial entrepreneur for over 35 years, dangling his toes into the ponds of many intriguing industries along the way. He spends much of his time looking for ways to work smarter, not harder, so he can spend more time doing and enjoying the things in life that are most important to him.


Mitche Graf is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn. For more information, visit the author’s website.