A few days ago, I was bestowed with a charming and old-fashioned gesture: a wish to "Have a wonderful weekend." The problem is, the gesture was plastic. Literally. It was stamped on a bag of bandages and toothpaste I'd purchased in a local pharmacy. Perhaps I am a cold-hearted SOB, but I don't get the warm fuzzies when a bag whispers sweet nothings in my ear. In fact, I wanted to, and ultimately did, tell the pharmacy to replace the weekend "love note" with one that reads "Whatever You Need, Whenever You Need It. Just call us at xxx or visit us at pleasingyoumakesushappy.com."
Why wasn't this done at the outset? Why won't they ever do it? Because what used to be one-on-one customer service that came from a culture that truly respected and appreciated customers as the soul and the lifeblood of a business has been reduced to a series of monotonous and superficial scripts that come from nowhere near the heart:
- Have a nice day.
- Please hold; we'll be right with you.
- If you would like to talk to a live person, press the pound key.
Well actually, I would prefer to talk to a dead person--or even a plastic bag--than push 10 more buttons until I find someone totally annoyed that they have to DEAL with a customer. What's really happening is that businesses are so focused on consummating transactions that they spend no time building enduring relationships. Plastic bags can't do it. A "Thank You For Your Patronage " note stamped on an invoice can't do it. The only way it can be done is if Management develops a culture that truly embraces customers.
The classic customer service survey asks people:
- Do you like our products/services?
- Would you buy them again?
- Would you recommend them to a friend?
What they don't ask goes to the core of great business, of extraordinary companies:
Do you have faith in our company? Do you think we are committed to you?
They don't go beneath the surface--the superficial, the scripts--because they don't want to know the answers. They don't care. The DNA of true customer service, of businesses built on relationships as opposed to transactions, has virtually disappeared. Sadly, today's managers think it's all in the plastic bags.