The common understanding of service in business today is unidirectional – focused on the service from a provider/supplier to its customer. The pressure and expectation to provide 100% satisfaction is relentless. Getting it right “most of the time” is often considered failure. And clients or patrons let us know when we miss the mark – sometimes with tremendous passion!
But what is our role as customer in this exchange of service for purchase and patronage? If our expectation is zero-defects, what service can we provide as customers to help meet this goal?
I watched this play out beautifully in a simple exchange at the dry cleaner’s recently.
Arriving to find your clothes not ready as promised might normally set off a series of angry and unforgiving words from the customer. I have been guilty of this as well occasionally with the service providers in my life. But this customer took the road less travelled. He asked, “What could I have done differently when I dropped the clothes off to ensure it was ready on time? I travel every week and always count on my clothes being ready on time.”
After recovering from the shock of NOT being berated, the store owner had a short, productive exchange that ended up improving his process. What could have been a heated exchange and a loss for both parties, ended up a win–win–win. A win for the owner, a win for that customer, and a win for me! I now take advantage of this new process for frequent travelers.
Consistent poor performance from a service provider should not be tolerated. But a customer genuinely offering to explore how to improve service is a unique and loyalty-building act in reverse. I am sure the customer in my story will now get what they expect and desire – and the occasional surprise! The owner will be loyal for a lifetime. We are all customers –internal and external.
Seeing ourselves as “partners” instead will improve service and relationships – no matter which side of the exchange we are on.