Redefining Customer Service
By Jerry Damron, President DCSI
The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. Only a life lived in the service to others is worth living.
As a global executive recruiter in high tech I have been involved in providing service to individuals and businesses around the world for nearly 30 years. In addition to operating a business in this space, along the way I’ve purchased and sold a handful of homes as well as a few vehicles and been involved with some rather large ‘business’ transactions. In other words, I’ve been on the forward end of providing service for my entire career and like most people, I’m also an active customer to some extent every day of my life. Recently, I’ve been questioning my assumptions regarding how we actually define customer service.
In a few of my recent larger scale experiences in real estate I met with a variety of professionals ranging from realtors, mortgage brokers, bankers and appraisers. It was surprising to me with all of these people that they appeared to be genuinely engaged with me personally. I legitimately felt as if real relationships were being formed with some of these people as they took the time to meet at a coffee shop, their home or other locations to seemingly talk and want to get to know me. I felt a connection that was palpable during these exchanges and it indeed influenced my decision to work with some and not with others.
The disappointing reality of these experiences was that once our so called ‘business’ was concluded, in which the salesperson had achieved the means to their end — a commission or paycheck — they just disappeared. Calls have not been returned and in some cases I’ve actually come face to face a few months later with some of those individuals and rather than greeting me and shaking my hand, they acted as if they didn’t even know who I was and maybe had never seen me before. Perhaps they never did consciously know me as a human being or ever think that there’s more to service than lining their bank account with a pay-day. That a cornerstone of service is the act of communal interfacing. It’s been a stark reminder that many people have lost the entire concept of community and service but rather know all too well how to do or act in any way that will enable them to close a sale and service not their outward community, but rather only themselves.
In my opinion, customer service is not the act of satisfying your own needs. Customer service should never be thought of as an inbound process, a tool in which you better your situation in some manner. If you’re doing something for someone and expecting something in return, it’s not really customer service, it’s doing business. More specifically, doing business to better yourself, not just to help someone else. This is where it might appear to be confusing as a natural part of providing excellent customer service may result in winning business. However winning business should not be construed as a primary means or motivation, to provide great service.
What is customer service? A customer is a person that may be someone you’d like to or are currently doing business with. They might be your neighbor, groups of people in your community or your country. I believe customer service may be closer defined as an act of solicited or unsolicited help without the expectation or thought, of any thing return. This can be to a customer or it can be to a neighbor or a community. Customer service can be the act of mowing your neighbor’s lawn while they’re away on vacation and haven’t thought to arrange for this in their absence. It can be picking up trash in your community that may be blowing across the park – when no one sees you doing it. It can be providing a varietal list of options and solutions for a potential customer. It can obviously also be something that does result in some form of benefit to you or your business.
Customer service should not end when your business transaction is over. If you’ve taken the time to listen, to find commonality, to help someone in a process without the expectation of anything in return, you will leave a lasting impression on those you’re involved with. This will build a lasting relationship. Making follow-up calls to ensure that if a business transaction took place as an eventuality, that your customer feels satisfied, or dissatisfied is essential in that context. Business, after all, is relationship based, a relationship that builds from first meeting, to potential transaction and most importantly afterwards. There is transactional business and there is relationship business.
I always am able to lift my personal spirit by helping someone else for the sake of doing the right thing. Mowing a neighbor’s yard without need or expectation for thanks. Helping an executive negotiate a job offer with a company I’m not connected to in any way or picking up trash on the ground wherever I am anywhere in the world, not for recognition or praise. But simply for the sake of providing thoughtful service to the world, my community, my neighbors. I have years of hard earned knowledge that has taught me that even though I work in a career in which I get paid commissions based upon meeting certain tangible goals, I will always find more success by following one rule.
You will reap higher rewards both personally and financially when you choose to serve, to provide service of any kind, and to provide the best customer service possible, without the expectation of anything in return. In following this process, you will not only earn more money, but you will also build long lasting relationships that will elevate your esteem and those of the people you interface with.