I recently had the good fortune to work in Australia for an international client. It was a wonderful experience and a great adventure. It also provided me with a lesson in good customer service delivery. The lesson? Good customer service is not always the same for every customer. It all depends on meeting the customer’s expectations.
The hotel I stayed at was in Manly, a suburb of Sydney. We were literally on the coast and Manly boasted a beautiful beach framed by a wonderful promenade. Each morning it would be full of people, walking and running to start the day. I joined them. Every day before breakfast, I would head out onto the promenade for the 1 ½ km walk each way.
The first morning, I had a problem. I kept “bumping” into other people and spent much of my time pausing, stepping aside and apologizing. It was a strange experience for me and certainly did not contribute to a pleasant walk.
And then it dawned on me. I was having trouble walking more than 20 or 30 seconds without a near collision because I was trying to pass on my right while the oncoming people were trying to pass on their left. As a result, we were both moving in the same direction to provide room for the other and ended up blocking each other’s path. It turned out that they, like us in North America, tend to pass oncoming pedestrians in the same manner that they would pass an oncoming car. Since Australians drive on the left, they were naturally trying to pass me the same way.
Our Expectations Were Different and it Sets Us on a Collision Course
Once I realized this, my walking experience changed completely (for the better). I started passing on the left and things started to go smoothly. I passed others with ease and the aggravating start/stop I had been experiencing disappeared. I could spend more time admiring the view and appreciating the early morning sunshine. And, of course, so could they.
Good Customer Service: One Size Does NOT Fit All
This proved to be an important lesson of good customer service delivery. One size does not fit all. Good customer service for one customer does not automatically equate to good customer service for another. Each customer has certain expectations of how they will be treated and judge their experience on how well we meet or exceed those expectations. It is important that we are sensitive to this and adjust our interactions accordingly.
For example, a customer who likes to engage in pleasant conversation may appreciate chatting about last night’s game or handling a question or two about the picture on the wall behind their desk. Others may be entirely business focused and see such conversations as a waste of time – time they are paying for. But even the conversational customer will not appreciate personal conversations in the middle of an emergency or when they are running late for another appointment.
Start By Identifying the Customers’ Expectations
So, the lesson learned is simply this: each customer has different expectations of what good customer service is, and we would be wise to be sensitive to this and adjust how we interact with them accordingly. The challenge for us as service providers is to learn what those expectations are for each customer. That is a discussion for another blog.
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