Excellent Customer Service Starts at the Top

Excellent customer service is reflected in the mission statements and policies of many companies of all sizes and from all industries. Recently, I have experienced both exceptionally good and exceptionally poor customer service.

Here are a few examples of each which represent different industries and different parts of our country:

1. After numerous transfers and almost two hours on the phone attempting to arrange TV service for my son in his new apartment, an installation time was finally confirmed. Then came the surprise, “Unfortunately, the apartment complex does not allow satellite dishes to be installed.”
Sure would have made for a better customer service experience if this information had been checked and shared during the first five minutes. Point: Don’t continually transfer customers by either Chatterbox or Customer Service Representatives unless the information needed is available. Customers indeed get tired of repeating the same request and the same information. It is particularly frustrating when the issue cannot be resolved, but a lot of time has been taken.
2. I was in an extremely long line at a bank during the lunch hour; two tellers were working while a number of staff members were seated at their desks without customers. I thought it was because it was the lunch hour until I overheard two customers discussing that it was always this way at this branch no matter what the time of day. Point: When a customer service issue is this obvious, reevaluate staffing assignments and lunch/break schedules.
3. I ordered sweet potato fries at one of my favorite restaurants. This restaurant is part of a highly rated chain and one at which I’ve enjoyed many delicious meals. The fries were lukewarm at best when served. I ordered the fries again the next night after mentioning to the waiter that the fries I had eaten the night before were not hot. Again, the fries were lukewarm and appeared a bit stale/old. I asked the server about the fries and she said, “Not many orders for sweet potato fries are placed so the ones served have often been setting for a while. You only receive hot sweet potato fries if there are none already cooked and a fresh batch has to be prepared for your order.” Point: Even well-run national companies fail to meet their established standards if local management fails to support or fails to understand the standards.
4. I recently stayed at the same hotel for two weeks. The staff was excellent: Front Desk clerks welcomed you, remembered your name and quickly responded to any questions or special requests. Point: I will always remember their attitude and their helpfulness and will likely stay at the same hotel chain again and again.
5. During the same hotel stay, I used Uber two or more times each day. The Uber app works exceptionally well, most drivers were professional and provided excellent service, any mistakes were quickly corrected. Point: Uber has well trained contractors and their app is extremely easy to use. Both factors contributed to their excellent service.
6. A hospital where my son had hand surgery (the reason for the hotel stay) provided the best possible customer service. At check in, the Patient Services Representative had been in her position for 22 years and clearly enjoyed her job, admired the doctor and the hospital. This was a large facility which ran right on schedule, made patients and family feel welcome and comfortable, answered questions with ease, provided excellent care from check in through surgery and follow-up appointments. Point: There is an obvious reason that this is one of the most highly-rated hospitals in the country. Staff has been well trained and given the authority to provide excellent service to patients and their families.

It is my belief that excellent customer service starts with top management at each business or operation. It is important to hire the right people, provide direction and training for all staff positions, provide adequate compensation and benefits to ensure employees know they are appreciated and give employees the authority to make decisions on the spot to accommodate customer needs whenever reasonable to do so. Excellent customer service does indeed pay off for all: customers, employees and the business!

Julia Aguilar