Too Big to Care?


Can a company get too big to care?

Lately, I've started to get some requests for Customer Service skills training. I take that as a positive sign. After many months of time management and stress management (definitely "signs o' the times," eh?), it's nice to be returning to the thing we ought to be most focused on, that is, The Customer.

In a recent seminar, when I asked the participants to reflect on their own experiences of good and not-so-good service, there were many (too many) stories shared about companies that had gotten too big to care:

- the cable company that kept transferring a customer from point to point without any resolution of the caller's question
- the financial services company that promised to kill a duplicate bill, but continued to send the double bill month after month
- the phone company that promised to stop billing a customer for a service he did not want (and had never asked for in the first place), but the service continued to appear on the monthly statement anyway

And more. The phrase that came to mind was "too big to care," inspired no doubt by the phrase that appeared just a couple of years ago during the financial meltdown, "too big to fail."

These well-known and well-established companies are huge, complex entities, running vast, global technology-driven operations. They are filled with very smart people, designers, engineers, marketers, and financial wizards, all watching their respective parts of the dashboard.

Yet, you have to ask, Is anyone remembering to care about the Customer? Caring for the customer is a basic skill. So basic that, if you lose sight of it, it could kill you.

What are some of the basics?

Communication = Are you communicating regularly with your customers? So much of a company's communication is one-way: emails, flyers, bills. When do you ever speak directly to the customer, to ask the customer how they like the service? To make genuine human contact.

Attention = Are you noticing your customer? They may be thinking of leaving. If they have a choice, and you aren't giving them reason enough to stay, chances are they are shopping around for a better deal.

Reward = Are you thanking your customer for doing business with you? Showing your customer that you appreciate their business is so unusual that, if you really did it, you would "knock their socks off," as the late great Ron Zemke once said.

Engagement = Are you engaging with your customer on a regular basis? Inviting them into your thinking process? Asking them for ideas on ways to improve service, or on new services?

Why do companies lose sight of these basics? I think that size might be the culprit. The bigger you get, the harder it is for you to respond, adapt, and change. The bigger the organization grows, the more differentiated the parts become. The result can be walls, silos, breakdowns in communication...and poor customer service.

It doesn't have to be this way. If the organization designs itself around the Customer, it will keep its focus on taking good care of the reason it exists. As Peter Drucker once famously said, "The purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer."

To keep a customer, you've got to care.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Saturday May 28, 2011. Looking for more ideas on delivering excellent customer service to your customers? Terry Seamon is a Learning & Organization Development consultant with Facilitation Solutions, a training and organization effectiveness practice based in New Jersey. He has designed and delivered training for his clients on leadership, coaching, engagement, managing, communication, customer service, conflict, stress, teamwork, and change, and has written extensively on these and many other topics. Invite Terry to your organization to speak with your teams. Call today and discover how Terry can help you achieve your goals: 732-246-3014.

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