When you call a customer service line, send an email to your IT help desk, or speak to a sales associate at your favorite store, whose shoulders bear the responsibility for your customer experience?
I would argue that that onus is SHARED between company representative with whom you interact, and yourself. However, it seems that more and more it has become accepted that the responsibility for a great customer service relationship is fully on the shoulders of the customer service representative.
Consider these well-known quotes
"Merely satisfying customers will not be enough to earn their loyalty. Instead, they must experience exceptional service worthy of their repeat business and referral. Understand the factors that drive this customer revolution." -- Rick Tate
"Your customer doesn't care how much you know until they know how much you care" -- Damon Richards
And, there are thousands more quotes and hundreds of books that say the same in a variety of ways.
Is the customer always right?
But, is the customer 'always right'? Especially when viewed from the perspective that a co-dependent relationship is one where one person is continually serving the needs of the other...without reciprocation.
Let’s also consider that an inter-dependent relationship is one in which both parties take full responsibility for co-creating a great relationship together.
I am convinced that somewhere along the way, the interpretation of 'customer service' has transformed into 'co-dependent service'.
I had this epiphany last week while talking with a friend about a customer service interaction they had experienced.
My friend shared that a few months ago she ordered a book and was irritated that the shipping cost was higher than she thought was appropriate. She asked the customer service rep to check for another shipping option, which he did. Yet, she was still unhappy with the cost of that shipping option.
She ordered the book, but was still feeling irritated with the customer service rep because he would not lower the shipping costs to what she wanted to pay. I asked her if she had taken into account that the company is a business with expenses that must be covered. She said that she had not taken that fact into consideration. I asked her if the customer service rep had been rude to her. She said 'no.' I asked her if she had asked to speak with the customer service manager, who might have had the authority to provide her with a lower shipping price? She said 'no.' I told her that it sounded to me that the customer service rep had handled the situation well so I was wondering why she was still upset.
After a thoughtful moment she said, "I guess I'm angry because I did not get what I wanted."
Getting good service vs. getting what you want
In that moment, I remembered all the times through the years that I have been upset at 'not getting what I wanted' from a business...and all the times I took my upset out on the customer service rep serving me at the time...as if it was the rep's responsibility to make me happy.
And, no wonder since for years I have heard over and over again that 'the customer is always right' and 'revolve your world around the customer and more customers will revolve around you'. Yet, was I 'right' to get upset when I did not get the answer I wanted from a store representative?
Today, I experimented with co-creating an inter-dependent relationship with a customer service representative in a sporting goods store while shopping for a new pair of walking shoes. Rather than acting as if good customer service was my 'right,' I approached our interaction as if she was already a good friend of mine (I had never seen her before). I did my best to be as clear as possible in my requests and to be joyful. In exchange, I received exceptional, expert, considerate and friendly service.
At the end of our interaction, I asked if she was a manager or if she received a commission for the sale. She was not a manager and she would not be receiving a commission. She was just happy to help me....a true inter-dependent interaction.
I am inviting us all to choose to transform our own 'customer service' experiences into 'inter-dependent interactions' each time we make a purchase.
Perhaps we will get a bonus of happiness along with our purchase.
Stacey Hall, L.S.H., C.N.T.C., is the CEO and Founder of the Hall Institute of Intuitive Wellness and the best-selling author of 'Chi-To-Be! Achieving Your Ultimate B-All.’ (http://www.chi-to-be.com)