Why Customer Service is NOT a Department in Your Business

Many businesses consider customer service a department in the company or organization. They hire people specifically to handle customer service issues like calls, taking feedback, product returns, etc. Some businesses have customer service departments that are well-staffed and have many people on their payroll. While this is all great, it doesn’t really get at the root of building a better business.

Customer relationship management involves more than just a customer service department you corner off in your office space for that purpose. You can’t just abdicate responsibility to someone else or have it relegated to a few select people in your business.

Here’s why…

To start, let me share an experience I had yesterday with you.

I went into a new restaurant yesterday and being new, I didn’t know what to expect. Being the adventurer that I am, I always like to try new things.

When I stepped into the restaurant, I only saw a side of the restaurant filled and the other side empty. Having consulted with many restaurant businesses in the past, I knew it was usual practice to seat people on a pre-determined side of a restaurant nearing the end of the day to make it easier for the waiters and waitresses to service customers.

Having no one to greet or seat me and seeing no sign asking me to wait for seating, I assumed that I was to seat myself. I zoomed in on a spot and went on to pick out food at the salad bar.

At this point, I haven’t seen any of the service staff yet so I wasn’t given a basic layout of where everything was.

As I sat down with my plate of food, only then did I see a waiter show up asking me if I wanted a drink which I promptly ordered.

Only minutes from ordering my drink, the waiter came back to my table and asked again what I had ordered. Having no one to greet me as I walked in was bad enough as a first impression, but forgetting what I ordered minutes after I told him made it worse.

During the course of this meal, I went to take some pizza. I noticed that there was only one slice of pizza left. I took something else and waited for a new batch. I waited and waited…

None came.

When I asked my waiter whether there was going to be anymore made, he told me they were shutting the kitchen down and there wasn’t going to be anymore.

There must have been easily 20 minutes or more where the food at the bar was not checked on by any of the staff.

No matter, I’m a pretty easy going person. Only minutes after telling me there wasn’t going to be anymore pizza, he goes ahead and helps himself to the pizza while he serves himself dinner.

Nearing the end of my meal, I went for the ice cream. My favorite part of the meal – dessert! As it turns out, the machine had run out. I asked if I could get some from the kitchen staff who was standing nearby and he told me no.

At this point, I pretty much didn’t get what I wanted and felt quite dissatisfied.

The pizza I could understand. But the ice cream? The kitchen staff could have just gone into the kitchen and got me some but he didn’t bother. After all, who benefits other than the waiter or waitress right? If you haven’t figured it out yet, you’ll see why this is incorrect thinking in a minute.

When I had finished, I got up and stopped near the entrance where he was cleaning up, he wished me a good night. I hadn’t even paid yet!

Now just to be clear, I wasn’t planning to walk out without paying. I was waiting for him to tell me where I should make payment. He led me to believe I was *supposed* to pay first and someone was to seat me. Obviously, the proper protocol wasn’t followed.

I told him I hadn’t paid and paid for my meail. I left no tip because service was just terrible and there was no recourse.

In this simple business of serving a customer in a restaurant, there are many lessons to learn.

First, never leave it up to the customer to guess what’s next. In this case, I didn’t know what to expect being a first-timer with no wait staff to greet me. Always guide your customers and clients on what they should do next. People are silently begging to be led. If you don’t give them a path to follow, they’ll make their own or worse, go elsewhere with their business.

Second, your people are there to serve the customers and clients, and not the business serving them. The waiter was more focused on helping himself to the last slice of pizza than he was in satisfying the needs of his customers when he took the last piece without even offering it to me. This kind of thinking is a common mistake that starts from hiring the wrong people or setting the stage incorrectly from the get-go. Having a proper team building system in place will take care of it.

Setting the stage incorrectly leads your team to think the business should take care of them first by expecting a certain salary, benefits, and other intangibles. Instead, they should focus on taking care of the customer or client.

You as the leader of the business take care of your team. The team takes care of the customers and clients. The customers and clients take care of the business by paying well. And lastly, the business takes care of the business owner by paying him a monthly income and dividend from business profits. This cycle of business provides the accountability and keeps the business running smoothly. Going any other way will just screw up the business building process.

Third, the kitchen staff while not at the front line of of the business plays a vital role in supporting the overall business.

By not going the extra mile for a customer, it leads the customer to think badly of the entire business.

A customer isn’t going to say, “hey, that’s my waitress’ job”. That customer is going to think the staff just don’t care about the customer. These impressions transfer onto the business overall and the end result: The business sucks.

I’m sure with this simple example, you can use some of the same principles I just mentioned in your business. Start thinking of it as a culture and not a department. Create a culture of service within your organization. Hold *everyone* working in your business accountable for the positive image of the business.

Your customers and clients will thank you for it with better profits.

If you want to learn how to build a business that works without you, get onto our business coaching program. You’ll be guided step-by-step in the business building process.

[dels]customer service tips, good customer service, crm training[/dels]