I’ve had several experiences lately – both good and bad – that have reminded me just how critical client/customer service is for companies of all sizes and across all industries. And it really only takes a little movement in either direction to make a big impact.
First, let’s get the bad out of the way… One of the simplest – and yet sometimes the most difficult – client service tools is communication. Communication is absolutely key. I’ve personally been working with a service provider who started out on such a high note in this area. My contact’s responsiveness to my questions – and indeed, his proactivity in keeping me updated – were the primary reasons I chose to work with his group over a competitor. However, the really disappointing part is that once the contract was signed, that communication pipeline all but dried up. I no longer get proactive update calls, and when I do manage to get someone to call me back, s/he is generally rushed and distracted on the phone. I certainly understand that everyone is busy, but the dramatic shift in customer service that I’ve experienced has left a bad taste in my mouth.
On the flip side – I’ve also had the pleasure of experiencing some pretty outstanding client service recently. And in these instances, I’m happy to be more specific. I tried a new (to me) Italian bakery recently – Vincenza’s Italian Bakery. I was desperate to find a last-minute solution for an impromptu dinner party. I looked up Italian bakeries, found Vincenza’s and called to see if they had any carry-out lasagna available. The woman I spoke to was incredibly friendly and helpful. Because it was last-minute, their supplies were limited, but she pulled the last lasagna out of the freezer and put my name on it. She proactively offered to prepare a loaf of garlic bread for me as well. And it was all ready to go when I arrived 20 minutes later. Wow!
On a grander scale, last week GroundFloor Media posted a link on our Facebook page to an article about a beautiful example of customer service exhibited by Southwest Airlines – in which a pilot opted to hold a plane to wait for a grieving grandfather. Yes, it delayed the flight a bit and probably angered some of the passengers – but in the end, the pilot helped make a tragic and painful situation slightly more bearable. And, although not as important in the grand scheme of things, his actions generated a great deal of goodwill for the airline in the process.
Finally, I’d like to cite two more examples of laudable client service – examples that are very relevant to the PR industry. And that is the amazing client service consistently demonstrated by our contacts at BusinessWire (Dylan Frusciano) and Cision (Kris Bates). Both gentlemen are always very friendly, incredibly prompt in responding to calls and e-mails, and they are always willing to go the extra mile to help answer questions, resolve issues, etc.
At GFM, I love that we place so much emphasis on exceptional client service. And it’s really the little things that matter – like client birthdays and quick responses. Or, as Seth Godin puts it, paying attention to those “last five minutes.” That being said, I cannot claim to be perfect – sometimes, stress and the frantic pace of a day get the best of me, and I don’t return a call as quickly as I should, or I fail to send a note of kudos to a client on a job well done. However, improving on that is my New Year’s resolution for 2011. And please – help me out! If I drop the client service ball when working with you, I sincerely want you to let me know!