Tell me why – I don’t like Mondays

Back to the Coal Face
Having returned to the front line of client service delivery, after a substantial (3 year) break, it’s struck me over the last two weeks just what a …

31st May 2007 at 11:19 pm

Back to the Coal Face

Having returned to the front line of client service delivery, after a substantial (3 year) break, it’s struck me over the last two weeks just what a delicate balance pleasing your customer can be.

First of all, don’t over promise. But of course what you do promise has got to sound appealing. And, more importantly, it’s got to be perceived to be better than whatever your nearest competitor is promising. Hmmm tricky that. Because let’s face it, your competitor isn’t exactly falling over him or herself to let you know what he or she’s promising. In fact the only time you really find out what your competitor is up to is once they are squarely in your territory, making promises to YOUR customer, in the hope of snatching their business from under your nose.

So once you’ve made your impressive, reasonable, doable promises, you’ve got to deliver them. Gah! But don’t under-deliver. Oh no! That way disappointment lies – and there’s nothing more powerful than a bit of customer disappointment to give a competitor the all-important opening they need. . .

But what about over delivering? It sounds great in principle. Your client or customer is wowed. You get the satisfaction of a job well done. You bask in your customer’s praise. And then you realise, with a sudden sinking feeling … that you’ve raised the bar. The client’s expectations are higher. Your idea of outstanding excellence has just become the norm. You have to jump higher and higher and higher. And guess what, you can’t go back. Your customer has a very, very short memory. You’re only as good as your last job.

Be consistent

Just thinking about getting the balance right is tiring. But delivering it consistently, day in, day out is exhausting. If you’ve got a new-age customer that believes in partnership, i.e. they recognise that you’ve got something they want whilst being grown up enough to know that you also want to make a decent living by supplying it to them, can make life more pleasant. But there are still plenty of customers out there that are happy to go on the customer/supplier power trip, squeezing every last ounce of cost, value and joy out of the relationship.

With customers like this, lurking around a lot of corners, it’s unsurprising then that customer ‘service’ rarely reaches its own heady ideals. After all, being nice, delivering service with a smile and getting a buzz out of a job well done, is only really rewarding when some of this feelgood is reciprocated when the customer delivers a measure of politeness and respect back. We’re all human after all and you don’t have to be a qualified psychologist to know that good behaviour that goes unpraised, might not stick around if bombarded with criticism, or left in stony silence.

A solution

So where am I going with this? I suppose I’d like to see a remedy to the malaise that grips our so-called ‘service’ nation. I’d like to see the two way street between customers and their supply partners officially opened (by the queen or similar dignitary). I’d like a motto for my campaign – ‘It’s nice to be nice!’.  And I’d like to see more of the people around me roll out of bed on a Monday morning, without that terrible feeling of dread as they look at the week ahead and wonder what particular kickings and beatings its likely to bring, in the name of ‘customer service’.

Sara Scott

Sara is a marketing specialist with a wealth of on-line and traditional experience. With award winning credentials as an advertising writer, her career also spans the disciplines of planning and strategy for both B2B and consumer clients. Having worked for one of the the UK's biggest non-London agencies, Sara now works on a consultancy basis for clients large and small.

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