customer_service-articleI’m Canadian. I know we’re friendly, unassuming and don’t complain about things like poor customer service. It really bothers me that we see bad customer service (CS) all the time but don’t want to complain or more to the point, be seen as complainers. My American friends will jump all over a server at a restaurant who has poor customer service skills. Good for them!

But this blog is not about people it’s about poor customer service. There’s nothing worse for a business to be stopped it in its tracks than bad or non existent customer service.

The three main contributors to poor customer service are the management culture or style, the training to the employee and the business processes in place.

I was watching a crazy show last night on TV called Restaurant Stakeout. The series follows New York City restaurant owner William Jack “Willie” Degel, who goes behind the scenes of different restaurants across the country with hidden cameras to examine their service problems. Typically the owners are seeing their operation in a new light . One of the biggest problems is customer service.

A management style, or lack of one, will most likely cause poor customer service. If you instill it in your employees by example you will be on track for good vibes from returning customers. We all know how hard it is to bring in new customers so losing them over poor service shouldn’t exist and is costly.

Training is paramount in good CS. I frequent a local steakhouse called the Keg, the food is consistent, and customer service is impeccable but moreover it’s absolutely consistent each time I go and with different waiters. It’s training.

Business processes in place are a big obstacle to good CS. I go to my local bank to make a deposit and see 10 people in a lineup for the 2 tellers in a 4 teller layout, Where are the other 2, on a coffee break at 10am? Of course, that’s the standard time for a coffee in Vancouver but the banks also know that and should change the operation to accommodate customers.

I see a big difference in customer service between my American friends 50 miles south of Vancouver in Bellingham, Washington. Retailers in the Bellingham mall service people without annoying them, helping with suggestions and actually fulfil their needs not their wants. You rarely wait to pay – its all very efficient.

I remember going to a Hallmark Card shop once in a Vancouver mall. The store was very quiet. I took my purchase to the cashier and was behind a little old lady with a card to purchase. The cashier looked at the little old lady and said, “I’ll be right with you I just need to finish this chapter”. She was reading a book!

Being Canadian the lady quietly said nothing. I reached over, grabbed the book out of the cashier’s hands and told her to do her job. Of course she was punished when I came back later to tell the absent manager about her level of service.

The best customer service I ever had was in a nightclub in Puerto Vallarta called the City Dump. The daughter of the city’s mayor took my wife and I out for some drinks there and partied till very early in the morning. By 4am we had closed the bar but were now drinking with the owner when I told him it was too bad there were no MacDonald’s open because I was hungry for junk food.

In a heartbeat he grabbed his waiter, whispered to him and returned to our conversation. Forty minutes later the waiter returned with hot custom made hamburgers for my wife and I. He had gone 2 blocks down the street to a restaurant owner’s home, woke him up and asked him to make us burgers for his Canadian friends – no problemo!

Would anyone ever do that in Canada or the US? People have lost the basic understanding of what it means to provide a service or product in a way that makes the customer appreciate it, feel they have been taken care of and are happy to pay for quality caring service.




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