What Is Customer Service Really?

“We strive to deliver best practice service”. I’ve heard it a million times by retailers in my career. “World class service” is another claim all too common. Usually those who claim it are really after the propaganda benefit of the rhetoric without any real understanding of what service really means to their customer or how to deliver it.

Without wishing to appear too cynical, it is my experience that that louder someone crows about their service the less likely they are to execute it.

The reason is pretty simple.

Great service is invisible.

The best practice retailers that I have worked with or studied in the 30 years or so of my career have spent the greatest amount of organisational time, energy and money delivering service that eradicates aggravation and un-necessary distraction from the enjoyment of the customer experience first and foremost. The so-called basics of service are actually what service is really all about to customers.

Housekeeping. In-stocks. Staff knowledge. Customer Efficiency. Ease of access, navigation, ticketing, transaction processing etc etc.

The basics are what ninety percent of service is all about. All too often retailers get carried away with some over the top initiative which they have experienced or heard about and try vainly to replicate. All this does is distract the team from improving the service attributes they should be delivering in favour of tilting at a windmill they have absolutely no chance of sustaining. In most cases it will cost an inordinate amount of time, money and energy and not deliver a return on investment anyway.

It is time to get back to fundamentals.

Observe your customers and staff regularly. Talk to them about what you are doing well and what you aren’t doing well and what would make a difference to them at the coalface. It may surprise you how straightforward the answers are and how easy it can be for you to add real value.

When you experience great service the thing that strikes you the most is how effortless it appears to you as a customer. Everything just works. All the factors that affect your ability to buy and spend money are delivered consistently well. With best practice retailers often the only time service is mentioned at all is on the odd occasion when something goes wrong.

When you nail the basics you are ninety percent of the way to best practice in service. Without them you are not even in the race.