Back to Basics: Customer Service

It’s all too easy to lose sight of some of the basic characteristics of what makes for a great workplace. One of those basics is customer service. If you’re in the talent management or HR department, you might think customer service doesn’t apply to you, but it does. Rather than the customer being external to the company, some of your customers are internal to the company – its employees – as well as external to the company in the form of prospective employees. I’ll illustrate with a recent example of poor customer service my wife and I recently experienced, and then draw some more general lessons for talent management and HR professionals.

2015-04-17_1221My wife needed to get a blood test, so I got online one evening and booked her an appointment for 8:15 AM the next morning at a local lab. We arrived to the waiting room at 8:00 AM and dutifully signed in, although there was no one at the office window. We could hear voices in the back, so we knew other patients were being seen. My wife stood at the window because she wanted to make sure someone knew she was there for an appointment.

At around 8:07 AM, my wife was still standing there at the window. One patient emerged from the back and left. We thought surely this is the moment when a lab worker would come to the window to see who else was in the waiting room. No such luck. A woman in a white lab coat did breeze by, but she didn’t even glance towards the window, instead proceeding to another exam room where there must have been another patient. My wife even coughed politely a few times to make sure whoever was in the back knew that someone was out front. My wife eventually turned to me and said, “I just want to be recognized.”

At approximately 8:20 the woman in the white lab coat walked out to the window, where my wife was still standing. Frowning, she glanced at the sign-in sheet and mumbled, “You’re so-and-so? I have you down for an 8:30 AM appointment. I’m just finishing up with another patient and will be with you in a few minutes.” With that, she turned briskly away and went back to the exam room in the back. My wife sighed and took a seat in the waiting room. Needless to say, she wound up being a bit late for work that day.

The number of poor customer service behaviors in this simple scenario is astounding. My wife stood at the reception window for twenty minutes without anyone acknowledging her presence. When her presence was finally acknowledged, it was done so in a rather grumpy way, without warmth or concern. The fact that my wife’s appointment was recorded a full 30 minutes later than what I had signed her up for just added insult to injury.

How does this translate into customer service basics for talent management and HR professionals? Here’s a run-down of the important ones:

People Just Want to Be Recognized. If you need people to wait for you, it is incumbent upon you to break away from whatever you’re doing long enough to acknowledge them and let them know what’s happening. The very worst thing you can do is just leave people out there hanging, wondering what’s going on and what they should do. It creates both anxiety and ill will that does not serve you well in the long run.

Be on Time. Everyone knows that time is the most precious commodity any of us have. Time is money, as the saying goes. You must honor people’s time by being on time yourself. That means keeping accurate records of appointments so you know where to be when. It’s not enough to just show up – you need to show up on time.

Treat People with Dignity and Respect. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. The way you do that is by showing genuine concern for them, speaking to people with warmth, making eye contact, keeping a pleasant tone, and greeting people with a smile.

These are very simple ways to keep the basics of good customer service in mind as you deal with all varieties of customers. You’ll be surprised how much value they add when demonstrated consistently over time.

April 15, 2015   Updated :April 17, 2015   customer service   

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