I can expertly expound on what constitutes quality customer service. In excess of five years, I was a Customer Service Specialist in the Washington, D.C. government. While there, Mayor Anthony Williams presented me with a “Customer Service Excellence Award” for my skills, and strong work ethic. In addition, in my possession are numerous copies of written commendations that I received from management throughout the course of my work history in government and in the private sector.
Media resources have shared reports of the steady decline of quality customer service. Nationwide, complaints have soared due to lack of acceptable service. Dissatisfied consumers are not a rarity. Poor service has become commonplace so much so that when impressive service surfaces, it's a rare treat. Typically, I officially commend excellent service because it needs to be recognized and reported.
Relative to poor service performance, in some instances rude employees are reported to managers only to discover that the managers also display conduct that is indecent and rude. Some managers go so far as to defend employees who exhibit poor performance. And it's obvious from observances that some managers are intimidated by their subordinates. Successful management cannot result from such practices.
I'm in the age bracket where I can hearken back to the days when quality service was the norm. It was routine to observe managers who expertly managed, and employees who regularly provided satisfactory service. Yes, even then we had occasions of poor performance. Such occasions, though, were far less than what is currently on display.
Then we were more likely to hear pleasantries and courteous communication. Body language was respectful with accommodating attitudes. Now, so often, we get the whole series of disrespect – body language, voice tone, failure to respond, misplaced laughter, and sarcasm. What goes on habitually now in the customer service field is a certain shame to the profession.
Largely, the current condition of the service industry is inexcusable and unacceptable. Consumers need to do more to hold representatives accountable for the abysmal state of service performance. The industry is in dire need of an overhaul. Could it be that it is in such a state because not enough consumers reasonably complain?
Training that penetrates is sorely needed and long overdue. Suitable people need to be in customer service. The art manifests as a natural for some people in the business. It can be taught, as well. Those who aren't receptive to penetrative training, where they capture the art, need to be moved on and replaced by those whose hearts are inclined to master the techniques and nuances.
Now is the time to require respectable satisfactory service as a regular occurrence. Realistically, poor service won't be entirely eliminated but we can sure do more to urge significant decreases in what is already unacceptable performance. Responsible actions need to be in motion and continue until noticeable improvements have center stage. Lax service is on the rise because enough good people don't demand otherwise. What are we going to do about this failed system?
Responsiveness is significant in the business of customer service. It is less than professional to neglect consistent feedback and follow up with clientele. The skill of listening is essential in customer service relations. Also, consumers expect representatives to empathize relative to their concerns. A sure turn off is to respond to consumers with robotic answers in attitudes of disinterest. I'm aware that consumers aren't always right. Some of them can be obnoxious and unreasonable with their requests. Reasonably, the role of customer service specialists is to effectively and efficiently accommodate people with care and concern. When matters escalate to places beyond the authority of specialists, management should be summoned for resolutions.
Support shouldn't be given to consumers who mistreat customer service personnel. Admiringly, I recall reading once about a restaurant owner and how he handled some patrons who verbally abused members of his staff. He retrieved and gave to the patrons their coats, and informed them that it wasn't acceptable for them to treat his employees in such a way. The owner instructed the patrons to leave, which they did. His decision was an honorable example of respect for his staff. People are never entitled to mistreat
others – no matter what the positions.
Dress code issues need attention in any workplace environment. Uniforms are the standard in some company operations. Uniform usage can be helpful in the prevention of unwise clothing choices. In places where uniforms aren't worn, it's imperative to be aware of poor presentations for the business image. Tight and revealing attire isn't appropriate in any environment, however, in workplaces, management should require that personnel be decently attired. Cleavage exposure, sagging pants, huge earrings and lengthy curled fingernails aren't attractive. Chewing gum doesn't bode well for professional business images. Individuality can be constructive but when it subtracts from environments in workplaces it needs to be adjusted to comply with acceptable business presentation.
It's not professional to converse socially with co-workers in the process of servicing customers. It's poor practice to indulge in side conversations when engaged on phone calls with others. If side conversations are deemed necessary, the proper procedure is to place callers on hold. In phone communications, when people are placed on hold, it's rude to say “hold on.” A professional response is, “hold on, please” or something similarly courteous. Upon return to phone lines, “thank you for holding” is an appropriate and courteous statement to make.
In days gone by, it was customary for business representatives to address customers by last names. It happens now that some of them address customers by first names. On one such occasion, a representative asked me if he could call me Sandra. My response was “No.” In business mode (with some exceptions) it's my preference to address people by last names such as “Mr. Davis” etc. It's my preference, as well, in business mode, that people address me in such manner. The first name practice is acceptable if that's an agreed upon action.
When I was a Customer Service Specialist, I was trained to not allow callers to remain on lines for more than 30 seconds without returning to inform them of the status of work on their behalf. On occasions, it would be necessary to phone people back to complete the needs. I'm sure that for many folks there is cause for concern relative to lengthy hold time experiences. Also, it's professional for people to identify themselves when answering business phone lines. For instance, “Precious Metals, Mr. Stanley speaking, how may I help you?”
It certainly concerns me that there aren't sufficient professionals who execute well in phone etiquette. What I found surprising is that it happens when engaged with personnel of large or major corporations. Perhaps I'm biased but shouldn’t the large corporations, in particular, do better? There is a major government switchboard operation where the employees answer the phone in a less than professional manner. When I worked in customer service and needed to phone there, it always concerned me about how the staff answered the phones. Initially, I thought that it was isolated. When it happened every time that I phoned that government switchboard, it was obvious that the less than professional telephone conduct is a practice there. Telephone usage has a definite need for improvement.
There is awareness that there are people whose intent is to regularly do contrary to what makes good sense. They make choices to be menaces. On our planet, dwell all sorts of characters; the good, the bad, and the indifferent. I realize that the words on these pages won't result in absolute change in the manner in which customer service is conducted. There is belief, however, that these words are not in vain. People who sincerely care about decency, respect and integrity will desire to be in league with those who purpose to do that which represents excellence.
Written April 16, 2010
© Copyright 2010
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