Service in Reverse: Building Partnerships as Customers

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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.

Posted On: 19 October 2011
Categories: Service Role Modeling
Tags: , , ,


10 Responses

  1. Sheila HC says:

    I found your comment that “The owner will be loyal for a lifetime” very thought provoking. Rather than rewarding customers for their loyalty, we should be rewarding employees for building loyalty. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that customer loyalty becomes an automatic outcome?

  2. K Raghunathan says:

    Cant agree with u more.

  3. syd kelly says:

    thanks for your letters which we all read and get good advise..keep going with up your service

  4. anand prakash says:

    Absolutely fresh thought. Joint effort by provider and customer can take service levels to perfection.

  5. Naresh Vassudhev says:

    If you and your customer can co-create values the result is High C-SAT for both external and internal customer. Service in reverse is brilliant. Will the customer participate? Yes they will, If they see that their voice is heard and acted upon. Do that and circle back to them. Thank them. You will see participation improving.

    Thanks, this is fantastic!

    Naresh Vassudhev

  6. Brooke @ Food Woolf.comf says:

    What an incredibly eye opening appeal to customers! I believe what you say is absolutely true. Though many aren’t aware of it, there is no such thing as a passive customer. We all play a role in business exchanges. Whether or not we want to have a positive influence on those moments are up to us.

    Making people aware of their responsibility is a real mind-blowing concept. Thank you so much for speaking about this important subject!

    Best,
    Brooke

  7. Vinay Kumar says:

    Beautiful Jeff. One thing I have learned through my own journey, having done both, is that when we accept personal respnsiblity, we are empowered. When we blame, we become the victim. Asking a question such as “What could I have done differently?” clearly reflects well on the individual doing the asking. What a wonderful way to be, to live. Imagine, what would the world be like, if each of us lived from such a place.

  8. deepak says:

    since its a win win situation the owner is loyal what happens when it is win lose

  9. Ashraf says:

    Dear Mr. Kaufman, thanks a lot for your work in the amazing idea of UP Your Service , I always believe that the employees working in customer service field is the organization internal customer and it is better for all CEO’s and manager to understand that to create a successful work is to believe that to satisfy external customers you must satisfy your internal customer and motivate them also train them well cause it’s like two faces of one coin to earn more money and to gain success in business.

    I also believe that the whole world is a customer to the whole world and vice versa
    Ex: my wife is my customer; my colleagues are my customers ; my boss is my customers ; even the door man is my customer.

    Ashraf Afifi ;
    Cairo – Egypt
    NBE

  10. Sarah Kelly says:

    Ron what a great article! All businesses should take advantage of the customer giving the feedback and as you said …”…a customer genuinely offering to explore how to improve service is a unique and loyalty-building act in reverse…”. We have tried this and it works! Our customers who give us feedback know that we are approachable and respect what they have to say. Thanks Ron!



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