I get asked between 1.5 and 3,000,000 questions about customer service every month (or at least it feels that way), yet I don’t mind a bit; it is my favorite subject, after all. Sometimes these questions come up in my professional capacity (as a customer service consultant and customer service turnaround expert); sometimes they’re just from a friend who knows I’m obsessed with this stuff.
Today I’m going to answer a few of the more intimate, awkward, and brave questions I’ve received recently, whether at one of my customer service training workshops or a keynote speech; from a client in the course of a customer service turnaround effort; or simply from a friend who has a question they’ve been puzzling on for a while.
If there’s a question that you want answered related to customer service or the customer experience, let me know and I’ll get right on it.
Question: Would you resolve this for us: Do name badges improve or detract from customer service? We have a raging internal debate here at my company, with nobody giving an inch.–Confused in Calgary
Answer, from Micah Solomon, Forbes Senior Contributor and customer service consultant and author:
The name-badge debate draws a lot of heat, with great customer service pros weighing in on both sides of the name badge divide, with equal passion.
The arguments that some customer service professionals make against name badges include:
• Name badges create a formal barrier between customer and employee. “We’re trying to make you—the customer and also the employee— feel like you’re in more of a peer-to-peer relationship,” having less of a barrier between employee and guest, says Hyatt executive Sara Kearney, in explaining why Hyatt’s luxury brand, Andaz, does without them.
• Employees worry their names will be used against them on social media. (Even if this doesn’t ultimately happen, many employees have stories where a customer will wield their knowledge of an employee name as a weapon.)
• Employees inevitably forget their name badges from time to time and end up need to borrow someone else’s.
• Wearing a name badge is unfashionable. Many customer service professionals, especially those drawing inspiration from the hospitality traditions of Europe, believe it to be more stylish to go name badgeless
The main argument in favor of name badges is that they put customers at their ease: knowing the name of the employee who initially assisted them gives a customer the feeling you can always return to that employee if they need further help. Also, customers’ memories are poor, and it’s an aid to them to be able to refer to yours easily. Finally, there’s fairness, or at least symmetry, to consider: You know so much about your customer, by and large: their first and last name and even, very likely, their social media profile. So, arguably, it’s only fair that they know yours as well.
I’m can’t decide the name badge question for you in any definitive way for you. My inclination is pro-name badge in most business contexts, because I believe that customer comfort, which is increased by name badges, should come first, assuming the cost in employee comfort is not too great. Yet this is not an answer I would proclaim as the one right way to go for every business situation. (I’ve written more about the name badge debate in my Forbes article here.)
Question: My boss has been obsessed with the 5-star customer service she’s received when she’s stayed at high-end hotels like the Ritz-Carlton. And she wants to bring that kind of service into everything we do here at the company she helms. My concern is that our customers aren’t ultra-luxury hotel guests (we’re actually a B2B [business to business] tech company, and the kind of customer service they’re looking for may be different. Is there really a close enough analogy between a luxury hotel and what we should be striving to do here, in our own less glamorous context, in terms of customer service? –Skeptical in Saratoga
I think, overall, your boss is on the right track. And she’s certainly not alone in drawing inspiration from the great luxury hotels of our time. I get notably more consulting requests along the lines of “I’m looking for a consultant and trainer to transform us into ‘the Ritz-Carlton of banking’” than I get from folks who want me to “make us into ‘the Bank of America of hotels.’” And the methodology I use in my customer service training and customer service overhaul initiatives indisputably owes a debt to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company (which has also graciously collaborated with me on three books to date).
However, your concerns are valid. While your boss’s goal of learning the essentials and fine points of customer service from the greats of hospitality is, I believe, universally applicable, where it should stop is at what I call “customer service style.”
In other words, a) yes, there is lots to learn by studying how things are done at a five star hotel, b) no, you should never adopt a customer service style that is at odds with the nature of your business and that will grate against the expectations of customers in your industry.
Whenever I consult to an organization like yours, I am careful to help you in codifying a distinctive customer service style for your business, even though I want, in regard to non-stylistic issues, that you embrace the bedrock best practices that I feel are universal. It’s a tricky line to walk but a sustainable advantage in the marketplace if you pull it off successfully.
Question: My boss has been hinting that he wants me to hire “only great-looking women” to work at the front desk of our spa. Sounds wrong to me. –Gobsmacked in Geneva
Your boss is on the wrong track, in my opinion, for both business and quite possibly legal reasons (though I’m neither a lawyer nor an actor playing one on TV). What you want for a customer-facing position are customer-focused, empathetic employees, of any gender and any level of hotness (or notness). Particularly in a reception position, this is where the employee needs to create a warm welcome for any arriving customer or potential customer. And success in delivering such a welcome is based on empathy, compassion, and judgment, not on what an employee looks like.
Look, I’m aware that attitudes like that of your boss are endemic. I have (former) friends who would recruit for receptionist positions on Facebook because that allowed them to search for models and the like. But this is wrong, both for society and for the interests of the company that takes this route. (If your shortsighted boss persists, show him this answer and hope for the best).
Micah Solomon, named the “new guru of customer service excellence” by The Financial Post, is a customer service consultant, customer experience consultant, keynote speaker, trainer, and bestselling author. Email him directly for an immediate response, or use his live chat feature to message with him in real time.
Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs