Wikipedia the source of all flexible (potentially true) knowledge states the definition of customer service as:
“Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase.”
I can go along with that as a basic description. Wikipedia then goes on to say “It’s importance varies by products, industry and customer” That I do not agree with.
Customer service is paramount to every business and is as important as any marketing campaign, pricing structure or branding. Before I turn this post into a ‘values of customer service’ speech I will speak on my recent trip to Thorpe Park.
I visit Thorpe Park every year around Halloween for Fright Night, a special themed event where the park organises actors and themed arenas based on horror and fear. You also have the chance to experience the rides in the dark which is pretty amazing, feeling the cool night air on your face as you ride Stealth at 80 mph…brilliant.
This year however after organising a group of seven of my friends to go we were massively disappointed in the level of service provided at one of the UK’s premier theme parks.
From the start there was litter everywhere, on the paths in the bushes in the ponds and I didn’t see one litter picker all day. I can understand some litter, it happens, I can understand some areas are hard to reach but leaving it to sit and fester. We can all tell when litter has been there for some time, crisp packets lose their colour, cans have become homes for bugs and other small animals. For this there is no excuse.
However I think the main gripe for my group and I was the lack of care and attention to the food huts. The one area which should be clean and tidy and at least ‘look’ cared for.
Poorly staffed and badly organised, at one unit there was one girl serving 15 customers and at another unit there were four staff for just us seven.
It was a wet and rainy day so after exiting a ride we decided to get some tea and hot chocolate, the service was slow and awkward then they then ran out of milk, to which we were told “someone should bring some milk along in a bit, at least that what they said” I stood in amazement, even the member of staff doubted her colleagues appearance with the missing stock.
When we asked for stirrers, we were offered straws and the condiment stand resembled something that had been a play desk for a group of three year olds.
We experienced the same service when ordering our dinner; poor organisation meant one of our group was waiting for 15 minutes longer than the rest for chips.
Sometimes I feel like I set my standards higher than my most, like it’s just me who would be the one who complains, who find the faults in a service. This is something I must pull from my professional life; I encourage my staff to keep to high standards that they would expect. To deliver customer service excellence and take pride in their own work areas. After all they are the ones who spend the most time there.
However this time I held my tongue and my friends were the ones to speak up and complain, they were the ones to notice the poor display of service and cleanliness. For a change they were the ones commenting on how bad the service had been.
In true Jerry Springer style here is my final thought.
If you offer a service make sure you actually offer the service, don’t sell burgers with no meat, and don’t sell tea with no milk. Offer the full service and offer it well, make sure you have the basic supplies available. Keep it clean, be it an office, a workshop or a food stand and manage the staff according to business needs.
I am also a big fan of mystery shoppers, find out what people really think of your venue, and when customers do leave an opinion respond to it. If possible on a bad customer experience you could even follow it up with an invite back in 2 months to see how you have taken their valued opinion on board.
That’s customer service excellence, that’s free promotion and that’s also another blog.