It’s funny, most of the major companies in Australia (Telcos, Banks etc) purport the importance of customer service. Take CBA’s current motto for example “determined to please… and possibly astonish”, CBA staff members annual bonus is tied to how they perform against that motto. Besides it being the worst motto ever (‘astonish?’), it does show how seriously the big guys are taking customer service and customer satisfaction.
Or are they really?
Take my recent experience with setting up AutoCarLog. I needed a payment gateway to accept credit card payments online. I leaned towards Westpac’s PayWay because the prices quoted to me were the cheapest and I was on a $500 challenge. They also assured me it could be done in 10 business days and they would personally try to make it less.
Well, the prices quoted to me were the cheapest because they failed to disclose a few extra monthly fees (for the merchant facility) and 10 days? And it took them two and a half months and two goes to set up my facility, which ended up being un-usable in the end anyway!
The thing that irked me the most though, was that I had to drive the process. I had to call up to find out everything- which included requesting my account login details. The only thing PayWay managed to send me was the contract with those unannounced extra charges stuck in. Needless to say, I’ve canceled the incorrect facility and I would not recommend Westpac Payway to anyone.
So it seems that the more a company grows the more customer service shifts from what actually happens to what they say will happen. Small businesses appeal because of that personal one-on-one service you expect to receive, so what happens to all that awesome service when a business grows?
One suggestion is that customer service begins in the leadership circle and is filtered down, concluding that the big management guys have lost touch with reality. I don’t think that’s it. I think customer service is stemmed from two things, having the right people and ownership. If you employ personable, friendly and knowledgeable staff who have a vested interest in the business, then good service will come naturally.
Ownership doesn’t mean giving all your staff a heap of your business shares, as dangling a gold carrot will work for a while until they become frustrated and money ceases to be a motivator. I like the approach championed by Flight Centre. They’ve built ownership by segregating their company into many business units, with each unit having less than 10 people working for them. Business units include payroll, marketing, graphic design etc etc. In essence, each unit is an almost completely standalone business which charges services to other units at market rates. This means everyone in the organisation ends up taking ownership.
The big guys have a lot to learn about what customer service really means, but I can’t see most of them changing in a hurry. Until they do, and until I stop getting ‘service’ like I did at PayWay, I, like many others will take my business elsewhere.