SERVICE IS THE NEW BLACK

Service black bag imageWhen’s the last time you had really good service? An odd question you might think, but surprisingly most people are surprised by good service.  When did this cultural shift in expectations happen? I was thinking about this recently as I experienced three rather awful customer service engagements.

I am certainly not the only person who has felt this, and I am certainly not the only person who has written about this. But something has to change, and if I can create some sort of dialogue around this, then my words aren’t for naught.  

I’m passionate about this topic because I work in the service industry, and SERVICE is one of my agency tenets. Service, by definition, is a provision or amenity provided to the public. But I also submit that Service is a physical act or tangible demonstration of your brand. Service is an extension of Marketing. Marketing is the bringing of goods and services to the public.  Marketing is not merely an ad campaign, direct mail piece or promotion – it’s the gateway to the consumer and a touch point for them to experience your brand. And for many brands and companies, this all starts with service.

If you choose to work in the service industry – retail stores and shops, delivery person, restaurants, or even the professional service industry, then you should be clear about what you’re signing up for – SERVICE. Serving others.  Others asking from you. Others expecting from you. Others taking from you with no obligation to give back. Service.  Get it? If you aren’t prepared for this, if you don’t have a thick skin, and if this makes your skin crawl – then don’t work in the SERVICE industry!  

Since when is it OK to treat customers like you’re doing them a favor by helping them? Since when is it OK for the general public to accept this kind of treatment by those we are paying for goods and services – including retail merchants, physicians offices, and even bank tellers. And since when is it OK for those organizations to tolerate this behavior from their staff members? Is it because addressing the issue is awkward and uncomfortable? Is it because we are lazy? Is it because we don’t care anymore?

So let’s talk ROI. Yes – things like service, quality and kindness have an ROI. If you provide good service to someone, is there any harm done? Does it cost extra? Does it take any extra time? At a very basic level, the answer to these questions is “no.” If you provide good service, you are likely bringing that customer back, creating discussion with their friends, family and colleagues, and perhaps even bringing in new customers. As a marketer, you cannot put a price tag on this.  Even if that person doesn’t mention the good service to another soul, you have upped the ante for them returning to your establishment by not giving them a reason NOT to return. Why would you want to do anything to risk their return to your place of business?  

When a customer walks in your door, you usually start with an “A” grade. Each and every touch point with you and your service allows for points to be depleted and your overall grade to be reduced. Say you have a beautiful, impeccably clean restaurant with award winning food, but your hostess snubs a customer because they don’t have a reservation on a busy weekend night. Your A just dropped to a C in less than 10 minutes. Even if everything else goes well for the next hour, you still only get a C. And what do those customers tell their friends after that – I guarantee it’s not the food or the atmosphere or the server. Boom – your first customers walk away giving you a C, and your next potential customers (if they come) walk through the door and may only give you a B as a starting grade. The “domino effect” of bad service.  As a marketer, you also cannot put a price tag on this, but no doubt your ROI is declining.

Even in bad or unusual circumstances, service can still win. Perhaps a staff person called in sick, so the whole team is short staffed during a busy time. Admittedly frustrating and we’ve all been there. Therefore, if you acknowledge the customer, greet them with kindness, and still manage to provide quality service, they will likely forgive you for waiting a few extra minutes or an error on your part. How do people not understand this concept??

What’s shocking to me is that it’s shocking to most people when they do get good service. I’ve had this discussion with many friends over the past few weeks as I was writing this article. When you actually get good service, it’s treated as something out of the ordinary. People are shocked and surprised. People note the rarity that has occurred. This is appalling to me – a blatant example of how a simple concept like service has been eroded away.

Service should be the new black. It never goes out of style, it makes you look good, and it works on everyone. Call me old-school if you want, but old-fashioned values like being nice to other human beings is “old-fashioned” for a reason – because it works.  

Service is based on quality – just as black elevates anything you’re wearing. It’s the standard currency between humans as we co-exist. Its basic appeal appeals to everyone.  

The definition of service may change and evolve over the years – just as black does in the fashion industry – but the common threads that weave them together are respect and kindness.

 

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