Is Customer Service Just a Buzzword?

People use Buzzwords all the time. It makes them seem informed and is an easy, almost lazy way to communicate.  We hear others using them and we adopt them to be trendy and fashionable. They get used in conversation and writing in multiple venues until they become tiresome or are replaced with other, newer terms.  However their very use influences the way we think and react.

As the online space matures every conversation is about brand, transparency, customer service, evangelism, and other words that used to have far more meaning than they do when we overuse them. We are not only overusing them, we are valuing the statement over the action.

Nicholas Carr , of the Neiman Journalism Lab, amplified that thought  in his post, “The End of Disruption” where he wrote.

For a long time now, “disruption” has been the go-to buzzword in commentary about journalism. Pundits and consultants love to say “disruption” because the word tends to attract money and attention. But the word is starting to ring hollow. Throwing it around today seems more like a way to avoid hard thinking than to engage in it. Maybe 2013 will be the year when we finally stop talking about “disruption.” I hope so, because then we can start giving as much consideration to what endures as to what changes.

In a world so thoroughly inundated with the written word, we cannot forget to value substance over form. It is too easy to echo popular sentiment and think that by making statements or using catch phrases and buzzwords, we are taking action instead of just talking about action. To paraphrase Carr, we seem to use the words to avoid hard work, rather than engaging in it.

I recently read heartfelt statements about customer service from a company I’m doing business with. I believe they were sincere in their use of the term, but as a customer, my experience has been that they spend more time talking about customer service than delivering customer service. I don’t mean to take them to task, and that’s why I won’t mention their name, but I find that their action, or lack of action is not uncommon.

Having acquired a customer, many businesses prioritize the service they provide by the size of the customer’s bill. But nowhere is the customer told that “the more you spend , the better your experience will be”. Nor does their company vision share a sliding scale of customer service.

In other cases, customers are  treated poorly because they are already  committed to some course of action by their relationship with the vendor. I had a friend, who , while going through a stressful divorce, hired an attorney to represent her. During the initial interviews the attorney seemed bright and aggressive and promised a swift resolution for the client. After just a little while, their relationship hanged. Calls weren’t returned, emails ignored, the case seemed to be stuck in a never ending swamp of detail and minutiae. The client felt betrayed and exposed and without a choice because she felt that her journey towards her goal was advanced to a point where changing service providers would force her to start her stressful journey once again.  When she was finally pushed to change attorneys, the new attorneys promised far less, but delivered far more, far more rapidly. Were she asked to make a referral  today, which attorney do you think would get the business?

For your businesses to actually improve, you have to

  1. Focus on your core product or service. If it isn’t high quality, you diminish your value proposition.
  2. Talk less and do more. Saying your customers are important is not as valuable as actually acting as if your customers are important. It is far easier to “talk the talk” than it is to “walk the walk”. But your clients will gauge you by what you do , not what you say
  3. Value all of your customers, not just the more profitable ones.  Or, if that’s your business model, than be open and above board about it and embrace it. If your business actions are not consistent with your business model, you not only harm your customers you harm yourself.

If your customer service is just a buzzword,  no amount of Facebook postings or social monitoring will help you build trust and expand your business.  The job you do may end, but your customers and clients carry their experience with them into a far larger world, speaking about that experience again and again. In a connected world, you never know where your connections will take you, or when their endorsement or approbation will earn or cost you that next possibly larger client. Talking less and doing more? Might be a little harder, but it will be infinitely more rewarding.

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