How many times have we come across the phrase: “customer service is not a department, it’s an attitude”. I’ve used it myself several times for one reason: it’s true. And also because it’s a cool way of getting my point across.
Trouble is, when you say something too many times you end up losing its meaning. Like when you say ‘oil’ many times in a row; the word turns into a string of meaningless noises. (Or is that just me?) The overuse of the phrase ‘customer service isn’t a department etc’ has made it invisible. Invisibility might be useful for superheroes, but for customer-service reps it’s practically a sin.
We throw around plenty of words and phrases, and it’s become an issue.
Define ‘customer service’. Google it. It’s everywhere. As companies, we’re being told again and again that it’s time to ‘improve our customer service’ and that ‘this is the age of the customer’. ‘Be customer-centric’ is my personal favorite. In the white noise of the overwhelming evidence that ‘customer service is the future’ — another recurring phrase — the real meaning behind the term is slipping away.
So what does it mean?
If you’ve Googled ‘customer service’, you’ll know that the first definition that pops up (from Wikipedia) reads as follows:
“Customer service is the provision of services to customers before, during and after a purchase. The perception of success of such interactions is dependent on employees “who can adjust themselves to the personality of the guest”. Customer service is also often referred to when describing the culture of the organization.” (Source)
Does anyone else want to shake their monitor when they read that? I certainly do. Why? Because it could mean anything. A lack of understanding means a lack of goal. I’m not saying that this definition isn’t correct — it probably is — but what it definitely isn’t is helpful.
Customer service has a simpler definition and this is it:
“Customer Service: Helping customers meet their needs.”
That’s it. Throw out the big words, put the meaning back into the definition.
I know that ‘helping customers meet their needs’ is a lot more complicated than it actually sounds, but that’s not the point. By redefining ‘customer service’ we’ve gotten rid of the white noise and made it a responsibility again, rather than a chore.
Once people know the goal, it becomes obtainable. Suddenly, customer service really isn’t a department: it’s something anyone can do. Customer comes in and needs help? You help them. Hey, that’s customer service! That’s not your department — except that it is because no matter what industry we work in, or position we hold — from janitor to CEO and beyond — we are here to supply our customers with what they want.
That is customer service, and it isn’t a department. It’s really an attitude.