Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pleasing the Customer = Top Priority

"Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it.
It is what the client or customer gets out of it."

....Peter Drucker

You don’t need an M.B.A. to know that good customer service - or the lack thereof - can affect a company’s success. Call it common courtesy or a smart public relations tactic; exceptional customer service can impact the bottom line.

There’s an electronics retail store in Manhattan called B&H. It’s on Ninth Avenue at West 34th Street. I had never heard of the place, but then I’m seldom shopping for electronics. But my cousin, who was visiting from Ireland, had seen their prices online and was on a mission to pick up a couple of things for her son and her daughter.

Customer service? B&H gets an A+++. To begin, it was pouring rain that December afternoon but the store provided plastic bags into which you could put your wet umbrella while you shopped. A nice gesture. The lines to speak with a salesperson were short and organized, and the counter sales people were extremely knowledgeable and helpful. Our salesman’s expertise prompted me to say that we were getting quite an education in video cameras. As it turned out, he had been a school teacher once in Brooklyn.

After you make your selection, your purchases are put on a conveyor belt below the counter and make their way through a Rube Goldberg mechanism to the front of the store. By the time you have paid for your articles, your purchases have been retrieved from the conveyor belt, have been bagged and are ready at the counter for pick up.

I plan to buy a webcam soon. Guess where I am heading.

Another example of good customer service that I’ve experienced is Cablevision. If I have a question or a problem, I know that when I call, I’ll hear a human voice. The person will always make sure I am completely satisfied before I hang up.

Like a fool, I was persuaded by advertising to leave Cablevision about a year ago, despite the fact that I’d heard people complain about Verizon FIOS. But I switched.. The promise of more HD channels led me away from Cablevision. It took me less than six weeks, however, to realize my mistake. Calls to Verizon for clarification on certain features left me frustrated and increasingly angry. The recorded voice advised me to go to the web for all answers. When I did that, I became even angrier when all the answers to FAQ did not fit my situation or directed me to further sites. I learned a good lesson and returned to Cablevision shortly thereafter.

I keep track of incidents where I’ve been served well. I’ve been taking the New Jersey Transit buses a lot lately and have noticed that most, not all, of the drivers are friendly, helpful, and courteous. I applaud them and all the companies and individuals who know you really cannot put a specific monetary value on good customer service. But it’s there, resting on the bottom line.