Service with a smile

Tired of brooding over the ever-expanding mountain snow in my front yard, I finally cried ‘uncle’ and headed for Florida last month, where I could brood instead over my ever-expanding golf scores. It was my first time in the Sunshine State for a few years, and once again I was mightily impressed by the quality of service there.

Doesn’t matter where you go or what type of business you deal with, the first thing you hear when you encounter anyone in the service industry is, “How y’all doin’ today!” And the thing of it is, the greeting always seems heartfelt and genuine. Compare that to the robotic disembodied hello that floats across the counter at you when you enter a store in the frozen north.

Compared to most parts of the U.S., we just don’t get the concept of good customer-facing service up here. Here’s a case in point. The other day I got a telemarketing call from a Canadian carrier that I do business with, trying to upgrade me to a broader based offering. The carrier had already called me about the upgrade several times in the past, and the last time I spoke to them I’d asked them to stop calling me about it. When I politely informed the telemarketer of this, he hung up on me! How’s that for service? Let’s not only ignore the customer’s wishes, but insult him at the same time.

If this were an isolated incident then I’d tend to shrug it off as the failing of a bad employee. Unfortunately, it’s the kind of thing that happens far too often. As the CIO, you’re in the service business too. What’s more, you’ve got a whole raft of demanding customers that you must satisfy. So let me put a question to you. What are you doing to ensure that your IT department gets top marks when it comes to interfacing with your customers?

If you’re leaving this to chance, then you’re bound to flunk out in this critical aspect of business support. It’s no secret that many IT folks are notoriously bad communicators – prone to tech speak, short on business acumen, a tendency to assume the customer has a greater understanding of technology than he actually has. Add to this a lack of training in basic customer service skills and you have a recipe for customer dissatisfaction.

The point is, good customer service doesn’t happen by accident. If you want your tech department to excel at this, then like any other aspect of their jobs, you need to train them in the skill sets to do it. It’s up to you to decide. You can provide service in the same detached manner as the disembodied voice across the counter. Or you can do it with a little Southern hospitality.

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