Everyone knows that customer service is key to any company’s success, but have we taken this concept too far…I mean as customers. As customers, do we forget that there is another person at the other end of the telephone, or that the clerk behind the counter has a family to go home to, or that the waitress has just as many hopes and dreams as we do? As a customer, are you truly more valuable than those that serve you?
Customer service is important and should be a top priority for every company, but that does not mean that we, as customers, are entitled to forget that those around us are human just like us. Our society has gone over the top with its insistence that we all deserve others to bend over backward to make us happy. As a society, we all seem to be in a perpetual trap of believing that we are more important than everyone else. We drive our cars like all those around us don’t belong on the road; we walk into stores and restaurants with little grace for human error; we call 1-800 numbers and yell at people just trying to put food on the table for their families because our bill was wrong or the product we ordered shipped out incorrectly. We feel justified by our actions, sincerely believing that it is our right to never be inconvenienced as if someone’s mistake is a personal assault against our very being.
The Business Perspective
Customers demand to be pleased. They want the world and they want it at a discount rate. As business owners, we know that this is true, yet we also demand the same thing. It is not a bad goal to want to serve your customers well, nor is it bad to want to be treated fairly when we are the customer. Where we have gone wrong is not in our desire to believe in customer service: we have gone wrong by turning customer service into an entitlement.
From the business perspective, this means that we often set our customers up for disappointment while also setting our employees up for failure and poor morale. By promising our customers the perfect experience, we promise them that we will not be human, that our employees will never make a mistake, and that there is no room for errors caused by unforeseen, out-of-our-control circumstances.
Let’s face it: mistakes happen. We are human, we employee humans, our customers are human. Let’s not set the bar so HIGH. We can promise our customers a caring experience brought to them during the pursuit of excellence. But there is no such thing as perfection. Instead of stressing out ourselves and our employees with the pressure to please, let’s start learning how to simply meet and greet other people, human to human.
A Thought for Employers
As employers, we often take our high expectations of how we want to be served and stifle our employee’s creativity. We demand that our employees always please us and always do exactly what we say. Creativity, innovation, and growth is born from trial and error. If our employees are afraid to fail, they are afraid to innovate. If your employees can’t speak up, ask hard questions, or present new ideas because all they feel is the pressure to please, then you are missing out on the full potential that your team can bring to you.
Whether we are a customer demanding a perfect experience or an employer accepting nothing less than the perfect employee, we must come to realize that the pressure to please is stifling. When we make the people around us feel like they have to walk on eggshells, we are really only hurting ourselves. Sure, the people we demand the impossible from will feel uncomfortable for a while, but they will soon move on. However, you will be left always frustrated, walking around with unmet (no, unattainable) expectations, wondering why the world is full of fools. Your frustration will turn into self-fulfilling prophecies as all those you come in contact with close themselves off at your approach.
A Final Thought
Feeling entitled to everything we want, including perfection, quickly becomes a dangerous pursuit. Thinking that we have the right to make someone else feel bad simply because we do not feel great is never productive. Yet, our society tells us that it is assertive, cool, even classy to belittle others with our demands that they not cave under the pressure to please.
On the other hand, some of the best service that I have ever gotten is from people that first made a mistake. Instead of turning on them, I accepted their humanity. The simple act of accepting and even embracing peoples’ humanity and imperfections builds loyalty and commitment. Oddly enough, it also inspires confidence in those that serve or work for us. This confidence turns into a pure desire to please, no pressure needed.