I have spent the better part of the last few weeks flying to various events and client meetings. My travels have resulted in numerous encounters with flight attendants and other support staff, and I often find it interesting to observe the difference in staff behaviors and courtesy levels in the same airline. What makes one flight attendant take pride in her job, while another seems to dread even looking at customers? More importantly, what impact does this have on customer perception of service quality?
Let me give you an example.
I flew round-trip between Toronto and Atlanta in December on Delta airlines. On the flight out, the flight attendant went out of her way to ensure that I and everyone else on the flight was comfortable. She provided plenty of snacks, was cheerful, heck she even gave me a free drink (the way to most people’s heart I believe!). My return flight, however, was quite different. As I was boarding the plane, a flight attendant (same airline) backed up into me and stepped on my foot. Upon doing so, she turned, glared at me (as if I was in her way), and then continued to move around me, rather than waiting for me to put my bag in the overhead compartment. She didn’t say a word!
What’s important about this example is that my perception of the quality of Delta’s service is now lower than it was initially, all as a result of this one flight attendant’s actions. Customer service, and in general those who deal directly with customers, have a direct impact on sales, and ultimately whether a business grows or not.
Who is interacting with your customers? More importantly, what is the impression these relationships are having on your customers and prospects?
A last impression is the first impression.
Here are some questions to consider relative to understanding the quality of your prospect’s or customer’s interactions. These can apply to customer service representatives or anyone else who might interact directly with your customer.
1. Are prospects or customers being greeted with enthusiasm, or with a level of energy that would put a librarian to sleep?
2. How quickly are your customer’s questions or concerns being addressed? Response time is directly proportional to customer satisfaction and confidence.
3. How are aggressive or disgruntled prospects or customers being dealt with? Are employees patient and calm, or do they push back?
4. Are customers placed on hold for extended periods of time? If so, what is the frequency of interaction while on hold? Does someone check on them, or just leave them to float in the abyss?
5. What is the degree of consistency in how prospects or customers are dealt with? Are there varying degrees of knowledge and enthusiasm in your employees?
What I suggest to my clients is to shop their own business. Observe how front line employees deal with customers first hand, and you will gain tremendous insight into whether your business will grow and flourish, or diminish and die.