What ever happened to Customer Service? (Part 1 - CS Series)

A word or two on Customer Service...

As a consumer, I find “customer service” to be an essential ingredient within my personal consumer formula. Countless times, my decisions (some of them quite momentous, I might add) have hinged on the subtle experiences relating to the service experience in which I am confronted. Honesty, transparency and a willingness on the part of an establishment’s service members seems to be something of a lost art… speaking from my own, personal perspective, of course.

Certainly, it’s not hard to find a customer service representative at any given establishment who is oozing with zealous energy, but I often question the motives behind many such smiling faces. For example, what motivates this man or woman? Is it a commission that can be gained from a sale made on my behalf? A step closer to a promotion? Might this individual actually have nothing more to gain from me than the personal satisfaction that their eager help will increase my life through my newfound interaction with their product / service?

Is it really a lost art, in such a short period of time?

Smart, conscious consumers must wonder about these things. I mean – when I was a young kid accompanying my parents on their ritual errand runs, I never questioned the quality customer service that I witnessed all around me. Whether it be seen in the eyes of a restaurant waitress, the knowledgeable words offered by an employee at Sears, or in the helpful hands of the customer service representatives who combed the expansive aisles of the local lumber yard in search of facilitating the experience of the typical weekend warrior – I simply cannot recall any negative feeling about our consumer experiences.  I hate to swallow the feeling that “customer service is a lost art”. That said, I cannot help but say that – because I rarely witness the same care today (in relation to what I recall as a child), when I am met with what I consider to be ‘quality customer service’, it most certainly possesses overwhelming power. This power compels me to feelings of great respect and, quite honestly, the results are most certainly quite favorable for the service representative. Okay – I suppose that I’m a sucker for good service. Call me whatever you like, I have a substantial weakness here.

More than a sign

It is with this sentiment that I can only hope that those with whom I have done business regard my sign business. I have always maintained that my customers, though their goal is obviously attaining a finished product from my hand, receive much more from me. The process of any given commission has as much to do with the “experience” as it does the “product”. To this thought, I feel it important to state that it’s the diversity of experiences encountered with my customers that makes me want to continue doing what I do. Who on earth would ever want to reproduce a limited number of museum quality signs, over and over? While I do indeed enjoy a degree of the inevitable monotony that accompanies this gig, it is the colorful people who commission work from me who make the work exciting and rewarding.

Why my work is different than other "sign painters"

1. Communication

Some of the things that I do to ensure that my customers a positive experience have to do with communication. Especially with custom work, it is critical that I communicate via email or phone – in order to establish a common understanding of the desires and expectation for a given job. Throughout the process of sign creation, I find it helpful to provide regular progress updates – many times in a visual form. Technology certainly makes this effort much more efficient and effective.

Maintaining a healthy dialogue throughout the process is essential to providing my customers with a work of art that is not only satisfactory, but exemplary with respect to their original expectations. Sometimes a batch of pictures will more clearly illustrate my progress; Other times, a short video clip taken with my handy-dandy iPhone will serve to convey the status of a particular job. Ultimately, the last thing I would want to happen is for a customer to anxiously walk their package into their home, open it up and remain surprised by something that was less than impressive and / or something that was not reflective of the commission they called for.

Stay tuned for a second edition to this series on "Customer Service". In the next post, I will reveal the second point which I feel distinguishes my work from any other sign painters.