by Bryan Williams
Not too long ago, someone told me that all this customer service stuff is really just common sense. She went on to explain that customer service is, merely, basic social skills that all people have. Saying “good morning”, “thank you”, holding the door for someone, and offering help are all elementary. I then asked her if she does those things consistently at work, and I got a somewhat blank look from her. Then, I went on to ask, “If something is considered to be common sense but is not commonly done, is it really common sense?” Again, another blank look.
Here is a partial list of things I consider to be common sense, but are not commonly done:
Saying Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening
Being the first to speak, instead of waiting for the other person to initiate dialogue
Not speaking negatively about your customers or where you work
Proactively keeping the customers informed so they don’t have to follow up with you first
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what you know, it’s what you do that counts. I can have all the common sense in the world, but if I don’t use it, then it’s meaningless. Both line employees and leaders must understand their roles in turning common sense into common action.
To the Line Employee
Approximately 16 years ago, I was about to begin an 18-month manager-in-training program. That program was designed to give me work experience in various hotel departments in 2-month increments. Before my first day in that program, my manager told me that I was not allowed to be “just a warm body” at work. He challenged me to “make a difference” in whatever department I was in. Then, he hit me with words that have continued to impact me to this day: “Bryan, I want you to leave a legacy in each department. There should be evidence that you were there.”
Regardless of the standards and quality of leadership, each person STILL has to make a decision about how exceptional they are going to be. Whether your co-workers follow suit is irrelevant. Have honor for yourself and your craft. Never intentionally give less than you can. Be exceptional and be courteous because you know that is what ought to be done.
Being kind never goes out of style. Making someone’s day special never goes out of style. Taking pride in your own work never goes out of style. Attentiveness and eagerness to assist never goes out of style. So, if in your mind, customer service is common sense, then do it all the time.
But what if you don’t have much customer contact? Does this still apply? Absolutely. You are either serving the customer or you are serving someone who is. Put another way, everyone’s job exists to do something for someone else. In fact, I can usually tell when service excellence truly is pervasive in a company. The employees with little service contact are usually just as helpful as those with lots of service contact!
To the Leader
The overall culture of a team is based on three things:
What the leaders consistently do.
What they consistently allow.
What they consistently celebrate.
As a leader, it is important to not take customer service for granted. Don’t assume you can hire virtually anyone, show them the technical aspects of the job, then hope they will be service-centric.
Have a clear vision of what the service experience should be like, and communicate it to your team. In fact, be very careful of who you allow to be on your team. Continuously re-emphasize how important service is. Model it, share examples of it, and reward it.
So, in my mind, the only thing “common” about customer service is that everyone appreciates being valued. Help. Serve. Assist. Escort. Greet. Follow-Up. Exceed. Recognize. Honor. Hardwire these words into your subconscious so that service excellence is not just common sense, but is commonly done.