Friday, July 17, 2009

Customer expectations

As a consumer, I enjoy good customer service as much as the next guy. I like to be treated respectfully and fairly. As a customer service provider, my goal is to do the same: to be respectful, to treat the customer fairly and to "delight the customer" in some small way. I think that's what our friends in Louisiana call lagniappe, loosely translated "a little something extra." I think this is a reasonable expectation from both sides of the picture, whether you're the provider of the service or the receiver of the service. I make it a point to recognize and affirm good service as I experience it. Affirmation may come in the form of a generous tip or a sincere"Thank you . . . you did a good job." It's most appreciated by continued patronage and a favorable recommendation to others.
The problem that I see evolving is that customer expectations have morphed beyond reasonable. I regularly witness customers whose expectations are unrealistic, perhaps because they don't fully understand what all is involved in providing the product or service that they desire. Sadly, some people appear to simply want to beat the service provider in some way as though the customer/supplier relationship is inherently adversarial when, in fact, it's actually a partnership. This misconception is really disappointing to me. Sure, there are some lazy people out there who don't care to provide respectful and fair treatment but I think they're in the minority. Most of the people that I encounter are trying to do a good job and many of their short-comings are simply the result of inexperience or a lack of training. When customers demonstrate an unreasonable expectation, I'm tempted to say sarcastically, "I'm sorry but we live in a fallen world." Of course that would probably be akin to pouring gasoline on a fire, so I think it but I don't say it.

Encouraging good behavior begets more good behavior. I think that you and I will find the level of service that we're looking for, whether it's good service or bad service. If I look for bad service, I'm probably going to find it. I'm going to choose to look for good service. I'm going to affirm it, encourage it and reward it. I'm also going to choose to provide good service by being respectful, treating customers fairly, and I'm going to find a way to sneak in a little lagniappe while I'm at it.

What about you? Do you think your expectations are reasonable? What are some ways that service providers have delighted you?

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