The Bar is Low

customer-1253483_640Last week we had to have a tree removed from our front yard. It had contracted some form of disease and sections were dying off, eliminating the shade it provided and rendering it an eyesore. I hated losing that tree – it anchored one side of the house and the curb appeal has been negatively impacted by its removal. Nevertheless, we knew it had to be done, so on Thursday morning the crew we’d contracted for the job arrived.

After conferring with my wife about the job and marking the location of two sprinkler heads in the vicinity with orange cones, they set to work. By the time I arrived home from work that afternoon the work was done. It was a real shock seeing the empty space. The larger shock was finding out that the sprinkler heads which had been so meticulously located and marked were now broken.

Of course accidents happen. When felling a tree it can be difficult to control everything and I understand that there may be some collateral damage. What I didn’t understand was the reaction my wife received when she asked the business owner about the plan to repair the sprinklers. There was no plan. He denied that one was even broken and argued that the other would operate just fine in its damaged state. There was no offer to repair the damage and no discount for the inconvenience and extra expense that we had incurred.

When discussing customer service, we often talk about “raising the bar,” going “the extra mile,” or performance that’s “above and beyond.” Yet all too often I’m left wondering what bar it is that are we are supposedly raising. Despite the advances in technology over the years – advances that have brought us incredible levels of personalization – service seems to actually be getting worse.

Phone calls go unanswered.

Emails aren’t returned.

Promises aren’t kept.

Staff is unavailable.

And few seem bothered by it.

From my perspective, you don’t need to raise the bar in order to stand out. The bar of service is so low, all we have to do is walk over it. We don’t have to go the “extra mile” because no one else is willing to walk the first one. And “above and beyond?” Well, it isn’t all that far away. To be recognized as a superior service provider these days, all you really have to do is hit the basic marks the majority of others aren’t willing to.

  1. Do what you say you are going to do.
  2. Make things better, not worse.
  3. Correct the mistakes you cause.

Customer service isn’t always about finding the next innovation or performing over-the-top acts of kindness. Most of the time, it’s simply a matter of doing right by others. If we just keep that as our focus, everything else will fall into place.