You start learning the difference between good and bad customer service on your very first job. It could be babysitting, cutting grass, or delivering the local paper (back when there was such a thing.)
How do you learn? It’s usually one of two ways. Let’s take grass cutting as an example. You get done with the job and you knock on the homeowner’s door to collect your pay. She comes out to inspect the job and this is where you get your first lesson.
“I know I didn’t tell you to rake up the clippings and put them in the trash but I expected you’d do that as part of the job.”
You sigh and realize she’s right. You didn’t do a complete job so you apologize and make a special effort to not only clean up the clippings but pull some weeds from the flower bed. And, the homeowner smiles as she pays you and invites you to come back in one week to cut again.
Over time you form a relationship and the homeowner asks you to do other odd jobs. She also tells the other neighbors what a good work you do and pretty soon you’re in the landscaping business. You buy a lawn tractor to go along with your push mower and by the time you’re ready to start college, you have enough money in the bank to pay for the first two years.
Then there is the other way you learn customer service. I’ll use the babysitting example.
There is a young couple in your neighborhood that has a 4 year-old boy and a 1 year-old girl. They also currently have someone they call a fantastic babysitter. She is a classmate of yours. But, she just moved with her family to another state and the parents are looking to replace her.
You jump at what could turn into a great local job and approach them with your rates and experience. Two days late the wife calls you to sit for them. You take the job and you figure you’re on your way. They ask you to come an hour early at 6PM so you can spend time with the kids while they are still home and they can answer any other questions.
At 6:15 you glance up from playing Angry Birds and notice the time so you rush out the door and get there by 6:20. A little late but no biggie you think. The father greets you at the door. Mom is in the family room dressed to go out and feeding the baby a bottle. She looks a little bit pissed that you arrive late but nobody says anything (including you) and at 7PM the parents leave with instructions for both kids to go to sleep at 8PM.
The kids are perfect angels and are asleep in minutes. Now you’re on your own until around 11PM when mom and dad return. It’s time to text one of your friends and start a Words game. You notice the 4 year-old left his toys all over the family room. “Kids!” you think. When you go to get a coke from the fridge you notice that the family apparently ate dinner but didn’t have time to put things in the dishwasher or cleanup. But noticing is all you do.
Finally the work night is over. Mom and dad are home and you’ve got your money and are out the door.
You never hear from them again. After a few weeks you drop by their house and find mom at home. You ask her if she is still planning on using your services and wonder why you haven’t heard from her. “We found someone else.” she says. “She also straightens up and does some other things for us while she sits. We’ll keep you in mind.”
And, so you walk away pissed off and thinking, “Hey, I’m a babysitter not a maid. If they wanted me to clean up after their kids they should be paying me for it.”
“Oh well, there are lots of fish in the sea.” you say to yourself.
But, as the months and years pass the neighborhood babysitting jobs are infrequent for you.
These two young teens have experienced the importance of customer service. One embraced it and it changed his life. And, the young lady never really “got it.” After school she got a job in customer service for USAirways.
The difference between poor and good customer service isn’t a whole lot.
The difference between good and exceptional service is the key to success in your business – and quite frankly – in your life.
I finish up this five-part series on customer service tomorrow with stories about exceptional companies. Between now and then, please send me any stories you’d like to share about your personal experiences with extraordinary service. You can drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a short message at 215-804-9133. Thank you.