The concept of service is one that permeates society and, in one sense, is in everything we do for another person. But there's a big difference between serving as a necessary evil and serving because it's something we believe in deeply and love to do.
This attitude carries right into business because (outside of scams and shams) every business in the world offers some form of customer service. Maybe it's the owner of a one-man shop and maybe it's a customer service team at a large company. But there's always some form of service to help with questions, placing orders, returns, complaints, etc.
The attitude of service as a necessity rather than as an honor and pleasure, though, determines how accessible customer service is and whether it's a good experience. In some cases, for instance, a company might rely on factors like technology and minimal service to keep prices low and keep customers happy up front. Which is great, until those customers need help with something. Then they may have to deal with a company by e-mail only, and it could take days to resolve a problem that a human could fix in minutes by phone. This could lead to a lot of unhappy customers in the end.
Customer service is also likely to be an extension of the company's true attitude about service. Some companies simply hire someone to answer phones so they can say they have customer service. Some might claim they want good customer service, but it's still an afterthought in their business model. Meanwhile, service is a central pillar to the way some businesses work. They insist on hiring service representatives who are friendly, helpful, and genuinely concerned with the customer experience.
Consistently finding people of the caring caliber of course means not just hiring the first warm body that walks through your door for a customer service position. It also means looking for those who demonstrate a caring attitude in an interview and perhaps show examples in their resume of volunteering or going out of their way for customers. More than that, it means supporting their ability to serve a customer once they come on board, leaving them with some level of autonomy or an easy approval system so they can fix many customer problems as they arise.
Lighting Supply takes pride in service, not as secondary to its wide selection of lighting products, but equal to it. Because we know that getting the right bulb, and getting it on time, and sometimes even having help making the right product selections, and having an easy time ordering, and not feeling like you're "putting someone out" by calling for help ... all of these elements play a role in a satisfying experience. And that's how we want customers to remember us. At Lighting Supply, it is a central pillar -- one we often discuss in-house while looking at ways to improve.
So what about your business? Is service central to what you do, and why or why not? Do you have any great stories of customer service within your business?