Client service starts in the car park
My Post Office box is at the back of the Post Office, and I need to drive around the back to their car park to access the box. Directly next to the Post Office car park are the car bays of an architectural practice, leading to their back door.
One morning, as I was parked in the Post Office car park, opening mail I had just retrieved from my Post Office box, I witnessed an incident that showed me that client service starts, not only at the back door, but out in the car park.
As I sat in my car opening mail, I noticed a well-dressed middle aged man smoking just outside the back door of the architectural practice. It was clearly a professional and well-branded practice as the corporate colours and logo were not only at the front, but also splashed all over the back walls and above the back door.
A car drove up and parked in one of their bays. There are about 16 bays and at 8 am half of them were empty. As the driver got out and locked his car, the smoking man walked up to him and said “No parking here”.
Clearly surprised, the driver asked if there was any client parking, obviously a client wanting to know where to go.
Smoking man said, simply, “No”.
Driver asked where the nearest parking might be, to which smoking man said “Try out front on the street”.
Driver, still polite said that he had just driven down the (busy) street and there were “Clearway” signs showing no parking during rush hours. Smoking man, perhaps more helpfully than previously, said “Try one of the side streets”, and then walked back to his position by the back door to finish his cigarette.
The driver got back in his car and drove off.
Now I don’t know if smoking man was a client-facing staff member, but he looked senior enough, and dressed professionally enough to look like an architect or management himself. I also don’t know if the driver ever found a vacant parking bay and came back – I hope he didn’t. I hope he rang whomever he was going to see to tell them that he was not going to use their services because if the service he received in the parking area was an indication, the service he was going to get from these architects would only be smart-logo deep.
Do I really need to tell you what the above incident says about client service in that architectural practice? You know as well as I do what it means. The real question is how do you get it right? How do you get customer-service to start in the car park? Here’s what I think:-
1. Ensure that your Vision Statement embodies the type of customer service you want your organisation to espouse;
2. Ensure you translate that Vision statement for ALL your staff, whether client-facing or not, what it actually means in practice, in day to day behaviours;
3. Ruthlessly root out anti-vision behaviour, sanction, nay, punish until all get it right;
4. More practically, in that neighbourhood where parking is difficult to find, reserve client parking bays and ask staff (start from management!) to park elsewhere if a client is expected, tell all staff when clients are expected and if necessary go to the extent of keeping an eye out for them to arrive;
5. Tell your staff that even if the people they interact with are not clients, rudeness is never tolerated and helpfulness (even to strangers) is always rewarded because their actions are the actions of their company.
What do you think? Have you seen “bad behaviour” and voted with your feet out the door?
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