By Stacy M. Menz, PT, DPT, PCS
Everyone loves great customer service, but what that means to each of us can be a very different thing. Almost everyone will tell you they appreciate good customer service and that they provide great customer service. The key to success in providing second to none service is knowing or discerning the needs of the person or group who is the recipient of that service1.
For example, some people walking into a store like to be approached immediately and asked if they need help. There are others (like my dad) who do not want to be bothered and will ask an employee if they need help. If someone were to walk up to my father, he would not see that as good customer service and might even turn and walk out, whereas the person next to him might be offended if no one approached them immediately upon entering the store.
With this in mind, I thought back to two recent instances of customer service that I have experienced. In the first experience I ordered replacement slats for a set of window blinds and apparently had measured wrong. An employee called and left a message noting that she had compared my measurement to my original order and it seemed incorrect. I called back at the end of my workday but missed her; I left a message noting that my measurements were still not matching. The next day, she left me a message saying she had called the manufacturer, figured out the discrepancy, and that because she knew I needed it quickly had expedited the order at no charge. I hadn’t asked her to call the manufacturer and had no issue paying, but she went the extra mile to provide a service knowing I hoped to get the issue fixed quickly per our initial conversation.
The second incident was when I had routine maintenance on my car. Right before I went in for the appointment I received a recall for some item on my car, so I asked if they could fix this issue as well while I was in because it was challenging to take time off during the week to bring my car in. Their response was that they could not do this and I would have to make a second appointment and that their soonest appointment was two months out. I explained that not only did I have to take time off work to bring my car in but also since the recall had to do with the gas tank it seemed like it might be a good idea to handle it sooner rather than later. I asked to speak with a manager and was told that someone would call me that day. I never heard from anyone despite my follow-up phone calls.
So, with all that in mind, customer service stems from the ability to be adaptable and tap into our emotional intelligence so that we, and our employees, can listen and read a customer and adjust their approach based on their individual needs. Most physical therapists seem to do this innately when we are providing the actual treatment, but as practices we seem to miss this more often through the rest of the customer experience. How do we individualize their entire experience, not just the part where they are receiving treatment?
I challenge you to think about your customer experiences. Break down what was positive and what was negative in each as you read through the articles in this issue looking to see how you can increase the qualities that made your experiences exceptional and decrease the qualities that made your experiences awful!