Customer Service: So You Think You Have it Wired?

If everyone in your office handles your phones with great care—you all answer in two to three rings, answer with enthusiasm and confidence, handle the customers’ needs, transfer the call or put them on hold for no more than thirty seconds without coming back. Do this, and you’ll have customers raving about you.

But if one person thinks he or she can smack the gum while talking to a customer, tells the customer what can’t be done without saying what can be done, transfers the caller to voice mail when the caller asked for a person, and misses all the other standards, you have the link that breaks the chain. And all you need is one weak link to have yourself a customer service problem.

A brand is all about consistency. What if you went to McDonald’s and they had purple arches? What if you went to a Doubletree Hotel and they didn’t have fresh cookies?

We have taken our kids to Florida on many spring breaks to visit their grandparents. When they wake up in the morning, they always want to do the same thing: go to the Waffle House. Now, their grandmother is reliably appalled that they would eat that food when she would make them a healthy breakfast. But she doesn’t understand. We’re not going for the food. We’re going to hear that thing we hear every year, a sign of spring for us. When we walk into the Waffle House, about six or seven people will look our way and say, “Mornin’!” “Mornin’.” “Mornin’.” “Mornin’!” It is the four seconds of repeated “mornin’s” that caused the kids to insist we never miss.

This year, we walked into a new Waffle House in a different area. As we did, not one staff person made eye contact; no one greeted us. We held our breath. We waited. We coaxed it. Finally, it became clear they weren’t going to give us our treasured greeting—they were just going to seat us. We asked the owner, “Don’t you always greet everyone by saying, “mornin’?” “Yes,” he said. “We’re supposed to do that. We’re just kinda busy.”

Well, we’re going to be a little too busy to ever go to a Waffle House again. They forgot that service standards are a promise that every employee in every location must keep regardless of circumstances.

So if your company sets service standards, and I suggest you do, no matter what is happening, keep those standards. It’s not negotiable.

We had a good thing going with the Waffle House, but I regretfully say, Bye-bye. Bye-bye. Bye-bye. Bye-bye. We had a great ride while it lasted. Thanks for the lesson about consistency.

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