Is Your Company Naughty or Nice?

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By Ron Kaufman

Generally, companies try to stay on their best behavior all year long. But during this holiday season — with decked halls, crowded malls, shrinking bank accounts and frayed nerves — providing great service is even more critical than usual. Much like Santa, customers have their own “naughty or nice list," and they won’t hesitate to give you the business equivalent of a stocking full of coal (i.e., taking their business somewhere else) if you make your way into the wrong column.

There's no better time of the year than the holiday season to uplift your customers with great service. Unfortunately, there’s also no easier time of the year to do or say exactly the wrong thing.

Often at the holidays companies find themselves overbooked and short-staffed. Supplies of popular items run out of stock. Departments aren’t prepared for the increased volume of customer inquiries and complaints. Employees are too distracted by holiday events or travel plans or shopping lists to give customers their full attention.

These practices are precisely what land companies on customers’ naughty lists. But usually, these are not isolated incidents. Instead, they are evidence of a bigger problem in the organization’s overall service culture.

Holiday happiness and great service needn’t be incompatible. In fact, one of the true forces driving the holidays is our desire to take care of the people we love. And that’s what’s at the core of uplifting service — taking care of the needs and concerns of other people. When companies build a service culture that keeps this top of mind, they’ll find themselves on the nice list every time.

What behaviors will banish you to their naughty lists?  Following are a few examples.

Specialize in the run-around. Doing business with a company should be a choice, not a chore. But unfortunately, many companies make receiving service very difficult for their customers.

Companies on the naughty list aren’t streamlined. Customers have to give the same information to one person after another as they’re passed from department to department seeking help. Departments are so siloed that customers can feel like they aren’t even talking to people who work at the same company.

Treat customers like a number. Have you ever been to a business, office, or other facility where you had to literally take a number and wait for it to show up on the electronic sign before receiving service? It doesn’t feel so great, does it? That’s how customers feel when you don’t bother to get to know them as individuals.

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