Customer Service Tip: Change the title of your customer service people

Lunch time. I went to a local Indian café to have a quick and simple meal. Little did I know that the person who served me would give me a master class on customer service.

And, in doing so, he gave me an “aha” moment on the importance of customer service people standing up for the rights of their customers.

Let me explain.

The Indian cafe close to our office serves delicious food at very reasonable prices. Your order is taken quickly and food is served quickly.

Usually quickly…but not on this day.

I entered the café, took a seat and someone quickly attended to my table. I ordered a very simple meal.

I waited.

And waited.

There is an undefinable turning point when a customer’s “looking forward to it”, waiting mood starts to turn to a mild, “what is the hold-up?” irritation. Nothing serious, but minor annoyance starts to set in.

Being a “nice customer”, as most of us are, I just mumbled under my breath, “This is taking longer than usual.”

When this happens, time starts to slow down in the customer’s mind. Every minute of delay seems to take much longer.

My wait continued…

And then, the person who took my order caught my attention. As he walked past, he gestured that he would check on progress for me.

It’s amazing what impact little things can make. This simple gesture of acknowledgement and “I will check for you” took me from mild annoyance to, “great, someone is looking after me.”

My mental time clock was not set back to zero, but it was set back to a comfortable, looking-forward-to-the-meal level.

And then I waited. And waited.

My annoyance meter started to rise again, but at a faster rate this time. My basic expectation of fast service was not being met.

And then the person who took my order transformed. He became my “customer champion”. He once again acknowledged me and my wait.

But this time he did something different. He took responsibility and stood up for my rights as a customer.

He spoke to the kitchen staff through a servery hatch. I could see what was happening. While I did not understand what he was saying, it was clear that the conversation went something like this.

My customer champion: What is happening with the food at table 10? The customer has been waiting for some time.

Kitchen staff: We are busy!

My customer champion: But you have completed orders made AFTER this customer made his.

Kitchen staff: His order is in the system!

My customer champion: The customer has been waiting too long. Please make his meal NOW!

My food arrived not long after that. I walked away a happy customer.

The person who had served me not only took the order, but felt responsible to stand up for my rights to get served quickly.

So, what can we learn from my “customer champion” at the Indian café.

First, he understood that his role was more than taking an order and passing it on to the kitchen. He saw his role to be to create a happy customer.

Second, a brilliant basic of customer service is to keep our time-based promises. He acknowledged that there was a delay and informed me that he would do something about it.

Third, when there was still no action, he took responsibility and followed through again. This time, he adopted the role of being my customer champion – he stood up for my rights.

This scenario is repeated, in one way or another, in most businesses.

How often do our customer service people process an order, make a sale or even register a customer complaint, and then pass it off into the hands of other people, and into “the system”?

And how often does the customer get lost in the system? How often do service breakages occur as a result?

The short answer is often.

What would be the impact if you changed the title of your customer service people to “Customer Champions”?

What would the impact be if these Customer Champions see their primary role to be taking responsibility for the happiness of their customers – even if it means “standing up for their  rights?”

My guess is that this would certainly put a sharper edge on the customer service delivered by your organisation.

Have a think about it – and let me know your views.

Until next time.