Customer Service Is Not Difficult

RSNAP Duh Squareecently, Huffington Post, and other outlets, shared a story about a customer service misstep. The following quote from the offending CEO sums things up:

“Last night I sent a private e-mail to our Customer Service team in response to a customer complaint regarding her past orders and restaurant profile,” Lehmann wrote in a blog post on Sunday. “My e-mail, which outlined how to resolve the customer issue, contained a bad joke which was very poor in taste. Subsequently, the bad joke was sent to the customer. What I said was a major lapse in judgement on my part. I deeply regret this.”

CEO Lehmann’s blog post is here.

The Huffington Post article is here.

So, why do we care about all this?

A tremendous amount of energy is spent on service recovery with just this one gaff. Events like this distract company leaders from delivering real service to this and other customers. Customers are smart people. We know the line in the CEO’s email was not really a “joke.” Trust and integrity are compromised. Big Time!

How we communicate with our customers is a reflection of who we are, what we care about and how we actually value our customers. The unfortunate email and the attempt to minimize the words used, to me, demonstrate an attitude towards the customer that is not healthy.

We can learn from real life. This is a real life example, in fact, too true to even be believed. I had to check this out a few different ways, because to me stuff like this just does not really happen. Yet, it did.

Consider the amount of time and energy a short SNAP message would have required. Minimal. And, I am referring to a message that would have averted the situation in the first place, not a SNAP message as damage control.

Here are the dangers:

  1. Lack of customer respect, demonstrated by the level of frustration that prompted the unfortunate remark. If we respect our customers, we also respect their frustrations.
  1. Lack of appropriate behavior modeling. Sharing the wrong message with anyone internally affirms our lack of customer respect, sets a tone that this is status quo and acceptable behavior, at least internally. What we do behind the door is generally reflected in front of the door. In this case, directly so.
  2. Lack of integrity. Stating that the poor use of words was a joke, in my opinion, may be worse than the initial poor use of words. This demonstrates a continued lack of respect for the customer. Really, swearing with respect to a customer situation with my team is a joke? If it is, it speaks to other ills that are of great concern, such as corporate culture, which also have a direct bearing on our customer relationship.
  3. Extremely poor judgement.

If customer are a part of your business, then treat your customers with care, with respect, with tolerance, with dignity. After all, your revenue stream, your income, your bonus, your daily routines are all affected by your customer. Directly. Why mess with that?

Take a moment and build out some simple SNAP messages. Sure, we have times when customers are not happy. OK. Build out a few SNAP messages to deal with that. Make them simple, and customizable, so that these messages can be used with real people, and speak to real life situations.

Let the customer know the STATUS, the NEXT STEPS, the APPROXIMATE TIME line and the PLANNED OUTCOME for their current situation with you and your company. Include other members of your team in these messages. Be structured so that you present a united front to the customer. Manage up your team. Manage up your customer.

Part of the customer’s response was to twitter her experience. Read more here. Do we want our customers to do this?

Real life is a great learning lab. But, really, don’t we know enough to plan this out ahead of time?

  • Do you have SNAP messages in place for a variety of customer situations?
  • Do leaders in your company model appropriate customer interaction skills?
  • Do we listen and learn from the customer?

Customer service is not difficult.

Go and deliver excellent customer service.

© 2014 – 2015, Philip Espinosa. All rights reserved.

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Philip Espinosa

As a strategic human resources leader, Philip Espinosa partners with people to deliver value: People | Partnerships | Value serves as his tag line. He believes that service starts with the customer. His book "Deliver Excellent Customer Service with a SNAP” helps others drive customer engagement using simple and consistent communication strategies. A second book titled "Focus On Your Success - 24 Simple Insights To Drive Daily Achievement" (ebook) helps working professionals view their daily choices through a different perspective. In addition to his writing, Philip works with strategic human capital initiatives and has delivered successful results over a career spanning more than 25 years. 

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