Regardless of what industry you are in you’re likely to have customers. Whether they are paying customers or not, whether they receive a product or a service, whether you deal with them on the phone or in person, or whether they are internal customers or not… They are all customers and without them would it affect your business???
As most IT professionals we have our clients and the majority are likely to be internal unless you’re working for a service provider. What does their happiness and satisfaction mean to you? If you’re working in a large corporation supporting an infrastructure then your customer satisfaction may have direct impact on your review. It’s important to always remember how important your customers are to your business.
During my career my customers often change from those purchasing products, services to internal support. I’ve always believed in keeping my customer happy; provided that it doesn’t negatively affect the business. Pretty simple, eh? The relationships you build with your customers say a lot about you and how your interpersonal skills can translate into career growth. If you are like many of the engineers I know then being social may not come as natural, but it’s okay. Like everything you succeed at you have to practice. Sure, it may not be for you, but I encourage anyone who has problems holding conversations to get out there and challenge yourself. You don’t have to like it, you just need to be decent at it.
My first job in engineering was a systems engineer position (originally hired as a developer) and I got that job while working at a software retail store. I assisted the president of the company and provided options on the task he was trying to accomplish. Making the extra effort opened a door that would later evolve to countless opportunities. My second job ended up being for one of their customers where my interpersonal and technical skills got me promoted to manager in less than two months. Your customers are your lifeline and if you treat them well and with respect, they will have good things to say about you and keep coming back to you.
Recently I’ve had some challenging experience with companies and their lack of customer service. During my travels, as a foreigner in an unfamiliar country, I would expect 5 star hotels to be honest when it comes to business and customer service. My first experience during my vacation was getting ripped off by a 5 star hotel who charged me $70 for a 3 mile ride in a Toyota. Worse was that the hotel kept trying to add services to my tab which I constantly had to decline. This is a case where the company (or its employees) is just trying to make money at any means.
Another example is with my fiber optics Internet provider. Sure… high speed is cool, especially when you’re in IT, but it’s important to remember that just because you have a niche market doesn’t mean that customers don’t have other alternatives. Customer service was great at the beginning, but overtime started to degrade. Outages have been unannounced and sometimes unresolved until several complaints are made. It’s important to be proactive and to own up when the reason for dissatisfaction is your fault. This is a case where the company stopped caring and maintaining the customer relationship.
The next and last example I have is probably the worst customer experience I’ve had. Remember, I spent many years in retail prior to engineering and was completely floored by the disrespect. I went to a large software reseller and computer/electronics store to return a video game accessory that was defective. I expected to be in and out within 10 minutes, but instead 90 minutes past and I felt like I was being treated like a criminal. I do not believe that the customer is always right, that just sets you up for being a pushover, but that doesn’t mean that the customer is never right. Part of customer service is conflict resolution. It’s important to know how to deal with conflict and determine appropriate actions. 90 minutes and I had spoken to 7 different managers to exchange a $20 product. I particularly found it insulting that I was accused of opening up and dismantling the accessory. Why would I open up something that’s broken, when I could just return it? That made no sense to me… Although now, it’s kinda amusing. I understand the importance of doing your due diligence because of scams that people pull, but it’s important to use come common sense. Is it worth losing a customer over $20?
Okay Marcus, sounds like you’ve had some bad experience… boo-hoo, right? Everyone will have some bad customer service experiences in their life, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t always strive to ensure customer happiness/satisfaction (provided that it’s reasonable). I don’t want to end this on a sour note, so I want to tell you about good customer service and granted I believe that overall, I’ve had more positive customer experiences vs. negative ones. I went to a second location to exchange the accessory. At this point I was already thinking that $20 isn’t worth the effort, but I was now intrigued to see if it was just poor management from the first store. The first store has already called the second store to brief them on the issue. I met with the service manager who had someone inspect the defective unit and within a reasonable amount of time, the exchange was complete.
During the process I even went as far as to explain detail-by-detail that I was accused of tampering and opening the accessory. The manager looked at it and said he’s worked on many devices and knows the screws haven’t been touched. What do we learn from this?
- Whether you’re managing a group that provides customer service or are providing customer service, you need to have knowledge over the product/service you’re offering.
- Treat customers with respect and they are more likely to treat you with respect.
- Learn how to deal with conflict.
- Don’t treat customers like criminals. (I know it’s common sense)
- Understand the risk/rewards.
The service manager knew how to deal with customers, knew the products and though cautious (looking over the company’s interest), delivered exceptional customer service. He even went as far as to apologize on behalf of the other store location. This is how you keep customers and this is how you establish customer confidence.
Having worked in many customer facing roles, I know you’re not going to win over all your customers, but remember what your customers mean to you and the business. Having worked for four customers, I know the value of building good rapport.
What’s been you’re most memorable customer service experience? Where you providing support or the customer? Have you ever been offered a job from a client?