From my earliest memories, working in my dad’s business was just part of life. I remember his “garage office” in our first little home, his “bigger office” in the home my parents built, (the whole basement,—and no, I did not grow up in San Antonio where basements are a rarity), his first “bonafide office” in a business complex he rented, and finally, his own big building. Throughout all of these transitions, (especially as I was the oldest), I was not only expected to work; I enjoyed it.
Somewhere along the way, between the ages of 10-13 or so, my dad volunteered my “clerical skills” to one of his friends who had a business down the road in the same business complex as he did at the time. This was a little more interesting in both good and bad ways. I was answering the phone in an auto paint and body shop. It was a happening place. I learned how to write up the initial repair order with the relevant information and I also learned how to deal with irate customers who had been promised their car on a “nowhere-near-done” date. I remember feeling a little nervous, however, I was always polite, and I can’t say I ever had any bad experiences. I had been taught one MASSIVELY IMPORTANT principal: the customer is always right, even when they’re not.
Now, of course we all know the customer is not always right. However, in many cases, problems can be avoided by enabling the customer to feel he or she is right. This usually entails a few fundamental, no-brainer behaviors such as: 1) listening very well, 2) expressing empathy and 3) offering to work with the customer until the problem is resolved to their satisfaction. I believe with all of my heart that customer service/centricity is the future of business.
I consider myself a fairly open-minded person, who, fortunately or unfortunately was born with a healthy dose of creativity, passion and persistence. I add the “unfortunately”, because I’ve managed to employ all of these qualities at times to get myself in trouble. Now, don’t go imagining anything too awful bad; in fact some of the “worst” lessons I’ve learned have indeed turned out to be the most valuable and profitable.
Back to business! Perhaps some might call my views regarding business and customer service old-fashioned, and, in fact, some have told me I’m old-fashioned and given me the following advice: if I want to “make it big”, (open to interpretation), in the world of business, I need to “look out for number one”. I wish I could say that the people who shared this, (unsolicited and solicited), advice were unsuccessful. However, that wouldn’t be the truth. Instead, to the best of my knowledge, they are living the “high” life, but I always wonder for how long?
I disagree with the “me first” mentality. I strongly believe if I help others achieve their dreams and attain their goals, I also achieve mine. It is the very doing, which embodies the essence of not only who I am, but the values and ethics of any company I represent. I have made difficult choices to “fire my client” because I could not represent or embrace their values.
It frustrates me to no end when I see companies that don’t care enough about their employees to make resources available for the betterment of all. Do the CEO’s, (my brother has another acronym, “HMFIC’s” which isn’t exactly fit for publication…), not realize that their employees ARE the face of their company in the eyes of the world? From my perspective, this is “business 101”,-—no actually, this is “business sub-zero”. Perhaps they do realize it and don’t care. They may not care today, but I can assure you, they will care at some point. (This is, of course, assuming they would actually care if their business failed.) It kind of goes along with an old saying my mom had: “you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” Bad business practices will catch up to you with the potential to ruin your reputation.
We’re all human. We’re all going to make mistakes. True story: I answered the phone, “Connan’s Paint and Shoddy Bop” the first day working at the auto repair shop. (Yes, it still makes me laugh!) What’s important is, upon realizing or being made aware of a problem; we ACKNOWLEDGE IT!
Ya can’t change what ya don’t acknowledge” – Dr. Phil
This is where CEO’s and companies who really care, matter! If a company is customer AND employee focused while fostering a culture of openness, education, trust, respect and service, there isn’t much that can’t be worked out in a win-win-win way. Narrow-minded, “my-way-or-the-highway” mentality is stupid. Yes, I said stupid. Ignorance is different than stupid, and any smart company knows this. They will educate and make resources available so that “stupidness” is not an issue, especially when involving customers and clients.
I’m old enough to have seen, heard and read about the businesses and people who are truly successful. They’re the ones who put the customer first, invest in their employees and genuinely care about the difference they’re making. They go the proverbial “extra mile” without thinking about it or expecting anything in return.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
That’s all for now folks. I’m hopping off my soapbox; until the next time.
-Julieanna aka @noboxes
P.S. It’s difficult for me to think of the words “customer service” and not think of @kr8tr. Thank-you for always being helpful.