It’s Better to Broaden Who We Think are Customers

We are all customers and can share examples of when we received stellar customer service. We also remember when we felt we received terrible service. Most of these examples are probably related to a paid service (for example, restaurants or dry-cleaning). Sometimes these experiences can seem to make-or-break our day.

Let’s switch our perspective. How often do we realize when we are providing a service to a customer? Do we recognize when we’re the one dishing out terrible customer service? Why does it matter?

When thinking about when we provide customer service in our career or work, the first thing that probably comes to mind is our boss. Our boss has clear expectations of the work we should be performing (if not, we should fix that). We get paid for performing our job as expected. Our boss is our customer and if she’s not pleased with our performance, or customer service, we may not get paid.

Let’s expand our definition of our customers beyond our boss. The act of doing something for others makes them our customers. Let’s look at some examples:

  • There are forms we need to fill out and submit to the financial department. The financial department is our customer; our service is filling out the form. Good customer service is when we fill out the form’s fields accurately and neatly. Bad customer service is when we leave off half the information or make it illegible.
  • A peer asks us to provide data analysis. Our peer is our customer. Good customer service is an analysis that answers our peer’s question, is clearly understood, and s formatted in a way that can be easily transferred to other reports. Bad customer service is a haphazard analysis with links to software files that our peer doesn’t use, or it is not easy for our peer to understand.
  • We’re generating a template for data collection that others need to use. The users of that template are our customers. A template that is easy to read, navigate, and fill out is good customer service; bad service is a template that is cumbersome and not correctly formatted to receive the data.

Bad customer service in these examples centers around the concept that we’re troubling our customers: we’re doing things for others in a way that makes it harder for them to do their job. It’s not that the financial department, our peer, or our template users are “not getting their money’s worth” (they’re not paying us, per se). But, because of our actions—or inaction—we’re creating a situation where it makes someone’s life difficult and doing a disservice to ourselves as well.

We can draw a parallel between our careers and that of a business. We’ve all heard and read many articles about the importance of customer service to a business’s bottom line. We’ve heard of marketing ourselves, similar to a business. Well, our success can be tied to our customer service, just like a business. We are each our own businesses and our own brand. 

Let’s apply business advice to our work relationships. Excellent customer service is used to retain customers for longer (see Adams). The parallel to this is our network: the people with which we work. We want to develop positive relationships with our network. We want to continue growing our network. Our network can improve our chances of new opportunities. And, through advice and knowledge of others, it helps us gain different perspectives.

Businesses sell more to existing customers than new customers (see Adams). We may be stuck with the people we work with, but our view of customer service can affect our workplace opportunities. Our existing customers, if happy, will come back for more. They’ll be more willing to work with us, to keep us as their go-to, because we consistently provide good customer service. If we mess up, our network will be more willing to help us out in a jamb, forgive us a slight, or help us get through it. The company is looking to downsize? Keep Joe Schmoe; he’s great to work with. There’s a new, cutting edge project with huge potential? Sally Sue is a good team player and knows her stuff.

“Great customer service results in an overall reduction of problems” (Adams). We can all imagine a smoother-running workplace with fewer delays if everyone practiced total customer service. We can also imagine improved workplace environment: if people’s jobs are made easier they’re generally happier.

When we switch our perspectives to this customer-centric vision, we also open ourselves up to seeing opportunities to change things for the better. We can be seen as positive change agents toward continuous improvement; we’re an engaged employee that strives to make things better.

As we think about our day, we can recognize that we have multiple customers and many opportunities for practicing excellent customer service. Adopting as one of our mottos don’t trouble the customer and putting it into practice can have far-reaching, positive benefits beyond ourselves and opens us up for opportunities otherwise missed.


Citations:

Adams, R.L. “10 Reasons Why Good Customer Service is Your Most Important Metric.” Entrepreneur, 12 Dec. 2016, www.entrepreneur.com/article/284799.