Customer service sometimes means how we approach our business…how we “do” our business. For our businesses to be profitable, we need customers and clients so we devote much time and attention to promotion and advertising. Another big percentage of our business is our interaction with our customers and clients in the buying and selling or product and service interface. A third percentage, just as large, is the after-the-sale time, the customer service time.
In defining our businesses we decide on what the added value elements will be. For instance, if you were to own a small hamburger franchise, your added value elements could be:
- restrooms that are always clean
- point-of-sale personnel who smile and use polite conventions such as “please” and “thank you” with every customer
- tables that are clean, floors that are clean and trash receptacles that are never overflowing
Another example might be a business consultant with her own practice. She might have as added value elements to her clients:
- passing along articles from journals that are relevant to their continuous improvement objectives
- remembering dates important to clients [everything from a wedding anniversary to the date they first opened their business]
One type of “added value” might be speed of service. If your business is that as independent distributor or consultant for a consumer product [could be juice, cosmetics, housewares…there is an alphabetical host of items] speed of service/delivery could be a legitimate added value. Fast turn around time from order to receipt of product could give your business a profitable edge and be a good way to retain customers.
I know of one big business that has speed of delivery as an added value and is very successful, in part, because of it. UPS, United Parcel Service’s “…fast, convenient delivery service…” is famous around the world. The brown UPS truck arrives in my neighborhood almost daily and the fellows literally dash from truck to door and back again, wasting not a precious moment. However, nothing is compromised by speed: packages are not thrown at the doorstep, and, if you have a question for a delivery person, they are friendly and helpful…never making you [me] feel as though you’re holding them up. So, you could say that speed is, for UPS, an added value. A successful one.
I witnessed another example of speed of service just this morning from another big business and in this case, speed is not an added value for the customer, rather it has all the appearance of management choices. Our waste management company is huge…it has some impressive environmental initiatives and as customers, we try to fulfill our part by using all four of the cans we’re given in the proper way: the small rolling bin for garbage, the mid-size rolling bin for recyclables, the large bin is the green waste can into which we also have to put food garbage…so we have a small [the 4th] pail in our kitchen for separating out the food garbage from other garbage. Waste management in our home, our county takes some doing.
So once every week on the appointed day for our neighborhood I put out the three rolling bins. The trucks that empty them have side arms that pick up the bin, raise it and empty it and then lower it back to the ground. In the past few months we’ve noticed that the street in our neighborhood is littered with bits of trash and garbage after the trucks have left. The reason is that the trucks are no longer coming to a complete stop. And this morning the green waste truck rolled by, used the lift arm, but didn’t raise it all the way to the top so that garbage poured out onto the street…the fellow in the truck stopped, got out with a shovel. When the truck pulled away, the street was left with food garbage scattered about. So a phone call to customer service and their promise to come back and clean it up.
Speed of service in this case can in no way be considered an “added value” to me the customer.
I think that it is important for all of us who are business owners, whether that business is large or quite small – like mine – need to fully outline what we consider to be the “added value” elements we offer to our customers and clients. In my business speed is not an added value. Timeliness is a promise, but I will not speed my way through an artwork or packaging. If I want the customer to receive it in a speedy way, I will rely upon a business like UPS who does have speed of delivery as an added value…a proven added value.
So, the question: is speed of service an added value for your business?