Customer Service versus Serving Customers

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Some companies have Customer Service (CS) while others serve customers. What’s the difference? CS tends to be a department or role whereas serving is a cultural norm. CS is something many companies do because they have to, i.e. not doing so might hurt the bottom line. Serving customers, by contrast, is something companies do because they want to, i.e. helping others is the reason they’re in business to start with. Put simply, the difference lies in what comes first in the mind of employees – money or people.

This difference is apparent in behavior. What do salespeople see when a customer calls, dollar signs or a person in need of help? In my experience, the former sells while the latter solves. What about your call-center reps, what do they focus on, getting calls completed so they meet an efficiency goal or a person on the other end of the line who has a problem they need fixed fairly, easily, and with empathy no matter how long it takes? Again, the former leave me angry, marginalized, and looking for another company to do business with while the latter creates more loyalty.

Now I know that both types of companies can solve a customer’s problem and that that is the ultimate goal, however, it’s the distinctly different message sent by each and how it’s felt by customers that is critical. In the end, the difference comes down to sincerity and true concern…or not. When the desire to help is genuine, you feel it, you feel valued and that you matter. No department or check on a best-practice list can do that.

So, what’s your organization’s mantra, help because helping is what you do or help only when you will gain? The answer matters.

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