Friday, January 13, 2012
Poor Service Impacts on Business More Than the Recession
By Michael M Walsh
Being unable to see their business through customers' eyes loses more business than the recession. So says Michael McLaughlin, for twenty-years a business vetting manager for the Guild of Master Craftsmen. The biggest haemorrhage of client assets is the loss of goodwill caused by badly trained or de-motivated staff.
As fast as service providers generate business through imaginative cost effective marketing, they lose it because of poor staff training and sheer bad management. The average customer can reel off a dozen businesses they no longer frequent. When asked why they reveal that they have been offended by poor customer service. It is the self-inflicted recession that never goes away.
American Best Practice
The chairman of an American car making giant was the first to see the light. He couldn't understand why his Far Eastern competitors were outselling his company's equally good products. Delegating members of his staff as pretend customers he sent them to his firm's dealerships; and to his rivals' outlets.
When they reported back he was shocked by the culture of complacency in his own firm's showrooms when compared with the customer-friendly 'can do' response of his Japanese and South Korean competitors. Setting up a department of mystery shoppers, their brief was to identify poor service judged from the customer's perspective. He aimed to identify the causes of his clients' dissatisfaction, and to address them, before his customers defected to the competition.
He added a complaints department that actually listened to customers, acted on their complaints; identified and dealt with problems so they didn't recur. The head of another corporation said: 'Today there isn't much difference in products; it is service that counts.'
The Good Business Test
McLaughlin sets out a test for business owners: He invites them and their staff to write down the number of services they no longer support, not because their products are inferior but because their service has left them disappointed. He says he can think of a dozen; a high proportion being restaurants, though interestingly Chinese eateries invariably score high marks.
The main complaints are incompetent, inattentive, or surly waiting on staff; a shoulder shrugging indifference to meals delivered late or badly cooked, poor value for money, and a lack of entertainment. Other offenders are town hall and local authority administrative departments. He says they should remember their monopoly, which leaves the consumer without alternative choice, does not justify poor customer service. If their salaries are sourced from their customers' bank accounts then they have a duty to work to the highest standards of customer service.
Customer dissatisfaction is often expressed when dealing with reception staff; hotels, and airport attendants. Medical centre staff come in for a great deal of criticism. Often the customer is patronised; empathy is non-existent; they are made to feel not only unwanted but a nuisance. A minimum of information is offered leading to administrative errors, unnecessary delays, customer irritation; all of which combine to reduce job satisfaction. Everyone loses.
The former quality assessment expert says business owners can help build and retain custom by inviting friends, unknown to staff, to give their honest opinion after clandestinely using their services. He says; "By all means tell the staff of your intentions. In my experience they respond well when they are involved without threat but offered rewards for helping to build a customer base and add to their shopping experience. "Business owners," he adds, "should heed the wise words of the Scottish poet, Robbie Burns: "The greatest gift that God can give us is to see ourselves as others see us."
© Michael Walsh: Experienced journalist-writer. Applies professional finish to stories or features; marketing flair for product or service reviews. Small press publishing. All genres considered. Welcomes your e-mail. http://www.michaelwalsh.es/
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