If you’re reading this post, chances are you view customers as the most vital ingredient to your business’ success. Yes, you’re dedicated to enhancing the customer experience, but consider for a moment just how often you’ve made a customer say, “Oh wow!” If the answer is “never” or “not too often,” don’t beat yourself up. You’re on par with most customer service professionals. Customers are seldom wowed anymore; that’s a fact. What’s sad is, they’ve come to accept that. Sadder still, the vast majority of us (so called customer champions) have come to accept it too.

Recently I’ve had a couple of experiences with two nationally known companies that have quite simply embarrassed themselves with their level of service, by serving me up a hodgepodge of neglect, broken promises, and conflicting information. As a customer, I want to feel like I matter and that my business is valuable. Instead, I just felt totally disrespected. Mind you, these are just two examples. Frankly, I could go on and on and on and on and…well, you get it. Bottom line, I was not surprised in the least by the treatment I received. Horrible service has become commonplace. Poor service is the norm. Good service is hard to come by, and exceptional service is just that, the exception.

So what happened? How did we get here?

1. Money. Executives live in a world of bottom lines and bonuses. If they don’t find ways to make their companies a lot of money fast, they are out of a job. So, who can blame those that are chasing ways to increase short-term profits knowing that they just may lead to long-term losses (truth be told, they likely won’t be there for those losses anyway)? For instance, many companies, both large and small are paying the folks on the front lines inadequately. Ever hear the expression, you get what you pay for? If an employee feels underappreciated, it’s likely that they’re not going to give their best effort. In some extreme cases, employees might even sabotage their jobs as a dig at their less than gracious employers. Pay the employees that are interacting with your customers well and treat them even better. Remember, these individuals are the faces of your business. When customers walk away, the interactions they just had reflect back on your brand.

2. Training. This ties right into the first item as training costs money. Training budgets are shrinking by the day and more and more employees are forced to learn on the fly. Then, it’s those undertrained folks that wind up passing their watered down knowledge on to new employees, etc., etc. This only leads to subpar interactions with customers, as you’ll have a staff that is not sufficiently addressing customer issues, which in turn, creates more issues. Please heed these words: Invest in your employees and they will invest in your customers and your customers will invest in you!

3. Culture. We’ve all been at a restaurant and witnessed a table of young adults sitting there playing on their phones and not paying attention to those around them. Call me old school, but this trend is nothing short of a tragic epidemic. The next generation of business leaders are retreating into themselves and forgetting how to have meaningful interactions with others. This demographic is also representative of many entry level call center employees. With all the time they spend lost in their devices, they are out of practice when it comes to verbal communication. So, how can we expect them to adequately handle an upset customer? Training! Oh wait, never mind, training budgets are being cut.

4. Technology. This one is the whooper. It can be our best friend and our worst enemy. Technology so often corrects one problem, but creates two more. Customers nowadays are forced into a frustratingly hard to navigate world of self-service options via ill formatted IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems and websites. Surely, you’ve found yourself in IVR hell, pressing this for that and that for this, desperately and endlessly searching for the specific option that can solve your problem and screaming your answers to a computer that never understands you. Or maybe you thought going to the company’s website was a quicker way to get your issues resolved? However, there you’ll be met with a hot mess of forums wrought with misinformation, and search bars that spit back results that almost address your query, but not quite. Truth be told, the things you are most likely to get from self-servicing are gray hairs and high blood pressure.

Providing self-service options is a novel idea. It allows customers to solve for common, less complex issues and it reduces the burden on call center employees. This means less staff is required, and that in turn saves the company money (there’s that magic word again!). But, too many companies are putting far too much weight on their self-service options and are essentially shutting their customers out of talking with someone. Often, we can’t find a simple phone number, email address, or even a “press 1 to speak with a representative” option. The self-service approach, when done to excess, is the antithesis to customer service as it does far more damage than good. You can bet not many customers walk away from these experiences with a positive outlook on the company they are dealing with. It’s time to reconsider what self-service really means and truly make it work for the customer’s benefit!

Doom and gloom aside, let’s look on the bright side. Considering the current state of customer service, if you are someone that has a responsibility for customer success/experience/service, your job has never been easier! Similar to a meteorologist on the East Coast, simply get it right some of the time, and you’ll be labeled a genius! Or better yet, professional baseball players; in their line of work, if they get a hit 30% of the time, they’re all-stars! Think about it, the bar has been set so low, that just raising it a little will set the Twitterverse ablaze! Heck, while you’re at it, why not take it a step further? Really, dig down deep and give your customers the experience of a lifetime. Go ahead, you can do it. Every business is different, but I challenge you to find and create opportunities to deliver those “Oh wow” moments and make your company legen…wait for it…dary!

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