The Craftsman and Customer Service

We have been talking this week a tremendous amount about one thing, customer service. Most of these conversations center around the idea that it really should not be very hard, in fact if your brand has customers – which I know it does, each day when you get up you need only to remember one idea:

How do I not fuck over my customer today?

That is it. Marketing boiled down to a single element on the periodic table of human interaction. What are you going to do today that will make that customer’s life or at least that moment better? If that isn’t in the plan, today is going to be a terrible day for you.

I woke up yesterday to find my water softener throwing water all over my utility closet. In the Midwest this is common once the weather decides to move from winter to spring as abruptly as it tends to in Michigan, so I called the number on the machine to get some help.  The guy on the phone was clearly bothered he had to work on a Saturday, as he acted disinterested and asked for my information on several occasions only to say “look man I only work on Saturday here, so I can’t remember all the things we are supposed to do.” As if I had anything to do with the scheduling.

For whatever the reason I didn’t call him an asshole and hang-up, I stayed on the phone got him my information and he said a tech would call me in a few minutes. Three minutes later the tech called, he apologized for it taking so long and apologized for the level of service during the first call. He walked me through some things I could do while he got dressed and drove over and within an hour it was taken care of. Just like that.

I write about this because Stan, who was the tech, is exactly what I am talking about. Stan was “on call” and was interrupted during his morning but I didn’t know or even feel that when he called. He knew I had a problem and he wanted to fix it. That is customer service.

But why does the rest of it seem so hard?

I honestly don’t know because I have been in places where the customer service should suck and brilliant employees just won’t let it. Places where they “have you” when you need a tire replaced, or plumbing, or a roof replaced in a hurry, a new furnace, you bought tickets to an event and the event is going south – these are all moments where the employees working are the ONLY thing keeping it from turning into a terrible experience and they simply won’t let it.

The age of social makes the message spread fast, bad news faster, even then there are people that just love what they do and they want you to love it to. Those are the people you want to hire, promote, let them franchise – sometimes that even happens. Mostly, it doesn’t. In most cases guys like Stan will go from employer to employer looking for one who appreciates his care and effort when that might not be the norm at this particular place if my first call was any indication.

Why is customer service so hard?

My guess is that answer starts at the top and slowly drips down to the guy on the phone on a Saturday morning when a leak is in progress. So perhaps the right question is;

“Why isn’t customer service the top priority on every level of an organization?”

If you can answer that you get to be the difference between the guy on the phone and Stan who did all the actual work. The craftsman cares in the way the phone operator should.

Eric HultgrenComment