We talk a lot about all of the new approaches to customer loyalty and customer satisfaction surveys and using social media to listen to and better engage with customers. Yet a few weeks ago I was reminded about the most important facet of customer loyalty out there -- good old-fashioned customer service.
Oddly enough, I've noticed that during the down economy customer service at most retail locations has really gone down. It's possible that with cutbacks people are working longer hours. Plus, it's no secret that companies often become more demanding and unreasonable with their employees when they know there may be fewer options for leaving. However, what managers need to consider is that this treatment of employees does transfer to customers, and while you may have your employees bound by fear your customer retention could drop.
Anyway, I write about social business. Why this rant about customer service? I had an experience at RSA Conference two weeks ago that was likely one of the best customer service experiences I'd ever had.
I sprained my ankle.
No, that wasn't the good story. That was the awful part of the story. My ankle was so swollen that my foot looked like a ham and I could barely hobble around my hotel room at the Marriott. After calling a co-worker and asking her to cover my morning meetings, I called the hotel concierge in tears. Not only did he connect me to the hotel doctor, he was able to get the hotel doctor to give me a phone evaluation so I didn't have to pay the $500 for a visit since I couldn't even make it out of my room. After that, I received a fantastic amount of help from the bell desk staff. One of them went to pick up my prescriptions for me on the other side of San Francisco. Another brought me ice. And another came back and checked later to see if I needed anything to eat, considering the hotel doesn't do room service during mid-afternoon hours. I was so impressed with this sort of attention that I left a lengthy voicemail on the general manager's voicemail box and sent a note to Marriott corporate.
At that moment, I didn't wonder what software or tool they used to engage with their customers. I didn't care or wonder if they had a Facebook fan page or were on Twitter. I didn't consider how many other employees experienced great versus mediocre or bad service.
While a little off topic, I thought it was important to share. It doesn't matter if you're a consumer brand or an enterprise B2B. Old-fashioned customer service is never "dead." Remember that your support programs should be your No. 1 priority, regardless of what else you do. Do not sacrifice good employee training and human relations encouragement for training your people on tools. In the end, that will hurt your business more than anything.