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What Ever Happened To SERVICE?

on Fri, 01/02/2009 - 12:33

In today's complex marketplace, product advantage is fleeting. It's no longer what you sell but rather, how you sell it that is vital to bridge the gap between product and service. Over the last decade as a banker and once responsible for the entire state of Connecticut, I have come to realize the importance of providing customer service that goes beyond the expectations of the client. Customer Service is the topic of endless books, magazine articles and how-to videos. I try to live by "The Golden Rule". That is, treat others as you would like to be treated. Truth be told, when it comes to service, my rule is "blow them away"! This is how I exceeded my customer's expectations and created a loyal clientele. You might wonder, why is a lifestyle Guru writing about customer service? On my show, I try to include segments about real-life situations that face us everyday in the average home and garden. This is one of them. The motivation for this article comes from a recent "bad service" experience I had with a local business which rates up there with one of my worst customer service experiences ever.

During our last heat wave, I arrived home to discover that the dog wiring system that keeps my Miniature Schnauzer on the property was ringing, alerting me that there was a break in the line. I called the company and scheduled a service call. The service technician arrived and after an hour, informed me that three separate repairs to the wire were needed and that I was in "bad shape". The system had been working fine and I didn't understand how this could have happened so I questioned the technician. Without explaining what could have caused the problem or answering any of my questions, the tech sped off to another appointment. A few hours passed when the owner of the company called to tell me, and I quote; "I don't believe we can satisfy your needs so I will not bill you for today, and we will walk away from the job". I couldn't believe my ears. I was being fired? Apparently his tech reported that I was difficult and would never be satisfied. So, without investigating the issues, this business owner was willing to create ill-will and a very dissatisfied customer. Bottom line is that he eventually called and apologized profusely claiming the heat wave was responsible for his bad behavior. Within days, he then repaired the system. With one call, the damage was done. I will never use this company again or recommend them to my friends.

Many industries today have become so large that they often lose the competitive edge that good personal service could give them. I'll discuss banking because that is what I know. I began my career in banking in Westport in 1994 by opening a new branch office of a national bank. Many of the professional relationships I developed there evolved into friendships. These same clients followed me to other banks that I later joined. While flattered by their loyalty, I worked very hard to earn their respect and dedication. I achieved this by making myself available to each and every client, no matter what their relationship was with the bank. I focused on community involvement by making myself visible and available to all as the hometown banker.

Unfortunately, banking today has become transaction driven rather than relationship driven. As banks compete for clients, only the top service providers will stand the test of time. Banks that invest in their employees and build relationships by paying attention to service excellence and by giving back to the community (both in dollars and participation) will always have my attention and business.

As a former President of the Westport Downtown Merchant's Association and Head Coach for the Learn to Skate Program, I balanced a high profile job, community service and many successful home and garden lectures and tours. Community involvement with multiple charities has allowed me to share my personal passions for home and garden which became the motivation for my web site, marjennings.com. Every opportunity to grow professionally gave me new opportunities to give back to my neighborhood and community. And when necessary, I have been able to call on a loyal and devoted clientele simply because the service they received from any bank I worked for, always met or exceeded their expectations. That is a win-win situation. So, the next time you deal with your banker, plumber, landscaper or dry cleaner, ask yourself if they value your business? Does it show in their service? And, are they a good neighbor?

In the end, good service always wins out. Let's stick together and raise the bar demanding to be WOWED. Here's what wows me:

  • Being greeted as I enter an establishment, by name if I'm a frequent customer.
  • Being asked how I can be helped or served.
  • Knowledgeable professionals that know their products and/or services.
  • Someone that can get your questions answered whether they know the answer or not.
  • Sincere commitment and interest in following up when necessary.
  • Businesses that involve themselves (personally) in local charities.

As my mother always said; "If you want my business you should at lease be nice to me". My mission is clear - I will no longer settle for sub-standard service levels. Let's support businesses and service providers that appreciate our business and reward us with outstanding service.

And there you have it.

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