Where Is the Customer Service Department?

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There used to be a joke that passed around an old, local department store. If a customer came in wanting to return or exchange something and asked for the Customer Service Department, often a clerk would reply, Customer Service Department??? It’s on the third floor” (usually stated in an ironic tone of voice). That’s what they said and then they would laugh because the store was in a two-floor building.

What those joking clerks didn’t realize (and what management didn’t understand nor train the clerks to understand) was that they were (or should have been) the embodiment of the Customer Service Department – helping the customer enjoy the shopping experience and to increase the customer’s satisfaction. They didn’t realize that business is an election process and that customers vote with their purchasing power.

Of course, that store no longer exists. Shopping patterns have changed, giving way to shopping malls a few decades ago and now, of course, the malls are having difficulty competing with on-line vendors that use customer service as a competitive weapon – same-day shipping, generous return policies, almost automatic ordering, and a well-trained staff who understand how important it is to satisfy their customers.

Those old-line stores couldn’t compete on selection, price, convenience, or on the importance of creating raving fans out of their customers. But don’t think the demise of the low-service company is limited to retail stores. The same “Customer Service is on the Third Floor” attitude exists in companies in every sector of the economy but I can guarantee you that the most profitable and fastest growing companies are also those who provide the highest level of customer service, not on the third floor but right on the front lines… no matter whether it is on the first floor in a physical space, on the phone, or on the internet.

So, the question becomes: How well do you compete today with competitors? Maybe it is time to do some comparison shopping, no matter whether you are selling consumer widgets, industrial widgets, professional services, or technology.

Our customer’s expectations for fast, satisfying service and quality have grown. Find out how you compare, brainstorm about how you can better serve them in the future, figure out how you will be able to profitably deliver world-class customer service and quality so your company doesn’t end up on the trash heap of failed companies that thought the “Customer Service Department” is on the third floor of a two-floor building.

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