I’ve already spoken once about bad customer service — the worst I’ve ever seen. However, good customer service is so hard to find I’ve not had an opportunity to talk about it. I alluded to some good customer service in that article, but while finishing Groundswell, I realized that institutionalizing good customer service isn’t as easy as it might appear — or is it. Lilly Tomlin did a Saturday Night Live skit some time ago (Season 2, Episode 1) where she said in part “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the Phone Company.” Honestly, I feel like a lot of companies have this attitude. Whether they’re the phone company or not.
So lately, I’ve been having some conversations with AT&T’s U-Verse service. I was having some problems with my phone lines after switching to their voice over IP phone service from Vonage. (Honestly, Vonage’s service was good, I just wanted fewer devices in my environment — fewer things for the wife to have to worry about when I travel.)
The thing that’s startling is nearly every customer service or technical service person I spoke to asked me the same question “How can I provide you with excellent service today?” Wow. I guess it is easy to institutionalize good customer service. Put in the script a question that the agent must ask for which there is no escape from providing good service. How hard would it be for someone to treat you poorly after they’ve asked how they can provide excellent service?
Similarly, I have a gentleman who is cleaning my office for me. Every time I talk to him, after we get through the hellos he asks “How can I serve you today?” Wow. For him, it’s not lip service. He actually does care. While I’m not personally the most observant when it comes to leaning in my office, I appreciate his attention to service.
Apparently, it’s simple to get good customer service. Oh, as a sidebar to this story, the AT&T U-Verse thing that I was calling for wasn’t their problem. It turns out I have a cordless phone that’s going out. The last agent that I spoke with took the time to help me troubleshoot the problem step-by-step. It helps that I have a Butt Set and a completely modular wiring closet in my house. However, that’s not the point — she was more concerned with helping identify and resolve the problem than getting me off the phone. She called the lines for me so we could see if they were ringing correctly. It was truly great customer service.
I’m not saying that AT&T U-Verse service has been perfect. The first technician they sent did more harm than good trying to diagnose the problem the first time he showed up. (It took me a day to realize what he had done.) They claimed to have resolved a cross-talk issue which, well, they didn’t. However, I can deal with technicians who are in front of me. Knowing that they really do care about customer service is a big deal.
On an less happy note, I’m preparing a blog post about my experience with HP — and the two desktop machines that have died on me in the last two weeks. Their situation has been a disaster. I’ll provide all the details when the situation has been resolved. I’m hoping at the end of the day I at least feel neutral about the situation.
Hi Rob, I chanced on your blog on technorati and I can’t agree more with you that as customers, knowing that the companies/staff really care, makes a big difference! Hope your experience with HP would turn out positive!
Well, here in the UK it seems as if ‘service’ is nearly a bad word. I think it’s that the association with the word ‘servant’. And I think you’re right – it’s that someone cares, irrespective of their seniority or importance.
I would add, I think that it’s also care for the right reason. When I’ve been in the USA sometimes I’ve felt that people cared about my experience purely for the dollars in my wallet. That feels ‘false’ compared to people caring simply because of their professionalism.