Friday, August 19, 2011

The Customer Is King

I love giving good customer service. I enjoy helping people and also solving complex problems for them. Most of my professional life has been spent in call centres, and a good proportion of that in roles where I did individual customer management on a case-by-case basis. I developed relationships with my customers, as often I would be dealing with them for stretches of weeks or months at a time. Everyone I worked with had a customer service-driven work ethic, and thrived on getting good feedback and compliments. My last position at a very large telecommunications company was as part of a team of results-driven high achievers, and it was very competitive in that respect.

So when I changed jobs and moved to a finance department, I was in for a rude surprise. I went from being in a place where the Customer Is Always Right and compromises can always be reached; to a team where frankly, they all HATE customers. And they’re not backwards in coming forwards when expressing their opinions. I was extremely shocked to hear some of them refer to their customers as “idiots” or complain about their complaints. I’m not sure if it’s a company culture thing, or something unique to accounts, but I’m used to it now. I just try to give the best customer service I can anyway.

How do you feel about good or bad customer service? Do you speak up if you are on the receiving end of either? A compliment can go a long way towards brightening someone’s day, and for some, there are even job rewards. Likewise, a complaint about bad service can help the next person in line behind you – sometimes it’s just about coaching a person to do better. I get really riled up about rude service I receive in person or on the phone – probably because I always go out of my way to be helpful and I don’t like it when a customer service person isn’t. I sometimes have to remind myself that it’s a human on the other end of my barrage of words and try to keep any critique constructive and not personal.

The best service of my life I ever received was in a little bar in Bangkok. The worst was over the phone from Elgas. Both these incidents stick in my memory due to the attitude of the person serving me.

Where have you gotten the best or worst customer service?

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