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How Much of Customer Service is Common Sense?
January 7, 2011 at 9:35 pm #119870
This question came to me as I was reading this article about bad service in New York restaurants. If you have a moment to read it you'll understand why this question caught my interest. Here is an excerpt:
A waitress refilled it, but as she withdrew the bottle she sent the glass flying toward me. Somehow, I managed to catch it in midair, but not before it dumped half its contents on my lap.I got a quick apology. Napkins appeared from all sides. Then the waitress said: “How lucky! You still have some wine in the glass!” And that was that. No offer to pick up a cleaning bill. No replacement for what I didn’t still have in the glass. No offer of a free dessert or after-dinner drink.
I know there is skill to great customer service; but how much of customer service is common sense? I don't think there are really any wrong or right answers, but I'd like to hear your feedback.
January 7, 2011 at 9:43 pm #119884
John ("Jack") KatoshParticipant
January 7, 2011 at 11:54 pm #119882
Wendi Pomerance BrickParticipant
Great post Megan -
This falls into my "Everyone's a snowflake" theory of customer service. Ideas about good service are not uniform between age groups, genders, religions, cultural boundaries, people raised around the world - there are actually quite a lot of variations within what people might consider "common sense." It's always best not to assume if you tell 10 people to "be good at customer service" that they will all have the same vision of what that means. To be sure you and your organization (business) are represented the way you think it should be done, write down your expectations, hand them out to people and then help them develop whatever skills are lacking so they all perform similiarly.
January 8, 2011 at 5:10 pm #119880
From one of the best in customer service - this is what they give employees.
Welcome to Nordstrom
We're glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them.
Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.
Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.
January 10, 2011 at 6:04 pm #119878
There is no such thing as collective "common sense." What we know as common sense is defined by our culture and class. Although I think the waitress in the example above was indeed offering poor costumer service, I'm wary of describing the reason as a lack of "common" sense.
When we talk about common sense, what we are really talking about is our understanding of how we, and by extension others, should behave. Unfortunately, I most often hear the phrase common sense used in what I like to call a hidden pejorative. It's rare for people to use the phrase positively. Most often, it's used to knock someone's skill or intelligence. Such as "doesn't he have ANY common sense? Why would he do that?".
The reason I think it's dangerous to infuse how we deliver customer service, especially in government, with this idea that people will know what do do base on common sense, is that we often apply both written and unwritten rules to these scenarios. Since those rules are based on our experience and cultural norms, it's likely they will not translate well to those around us, especially folks who don't speak our language, didn't grow up in our home town, or didn't experience similar life events.
I don't think the phrase "common sense" has any place in government. What does have a place in government is asking our consumers to explain to us how they experience the services we provide. Only by clarifying expectations and using shared understanding to improve how we deliver our work can we create any common experience at all.
January 10, 2011 at 6:13 pm #119876
@Heather I very much understand your point and agree that "common sense" is in the mind of the beholder (if you will). I also agree that when training it is dangerous to assume others you have hired or work with know and have experienced all of the instances that have framed your definition of "Common Sense"
With that being said, how do you train or teach someone the scenarios you have experienced to help them know what a common or expected reaction should/will be from a customer service stand point?
January 19, 2011 at 8:06 pm #119874
It's important to set clear expectations for employee behavior. Not only does it provide better service to the customer, when employees understand their role and are empowered within it (and beyond it, if possible), the organizational outcomes and culture improve as well.
However, in discussing expectation for behavior between client and employee, there is no reason to call that common sense. In fact, doing so is likely to lower performance because individuals will apply their own interpretations to that situation rather than reacting along expected protocols.
Another way to train folks is to use Popular Education -- to share the learning experience with your employees as both consumers and employees. It's rare to meet someone that hasn't had a very negative interaction with an employee behind a desk or on the other end of the phone line. Most people can relate, on a very personal level, to how frustrating it can be to receive poor customer service. Approaching training from the standpoint of having a shared, collective experience is also more likely to create a safe atmosphere where people can talk about the often no-so-subtle reasons people receive poor service: racism, sexism and homophopia.
Through shared experiences, creating an empowering and discrimination-free environment for employees, and utilizing policy and procedure to create clear expectations of roles and behavior will ensure (hopefully) that employees are prepared to respond to common issues customers experience.
January 20, 2011 at 12:54 am #119872
I am in the Nordstrom camp.
An excellent statement, and I believe staff empowerment works, but I would add a caveat: Not all people are naturally empathetic, proactive, or service oriented. This approach should be coupled with a quality hiring system and a good ongoing education and training program for management and employees.
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