Many people today don’t even know the meaning of customer service. It’s not our fault; it’s just that we have been so long exposed to non-customer service being passed off as the real deal that we don’t know that we’re not getting it anymore. Let’s face it: if I have a problem with a product or service and need some assistance from the company, I don’t like having to spend 30 minutes wandering endlessly through the maze of voice-prompted menus to find that an actual person doesn’t exist and my problem doesn’t fit neatly into one of their pre-programmed compartments. I don’t know one person who doesn’t hate that, yet we all accept it. I guess to a certain extent we must because so many companies are offering that and no alternatives.
Sometimes, however, we do still have a choice, especially when we are dealing with smaller companies (and some larger) in the service and hospitality industries. One thing that you know is that weddings are expensive, even small ones. Wedding services are also expensive. The price that I charge for my music comes with a guarantee of great customer service and I don’t think you should settle for anything less when dealing with any of your vendors.
What does great customer service mean to me? What it means in its most basic form is that I either answer the telephone when you call or if I’m out of the office, return your call as soon as possible. The same goes for e-mail. I try not to let anything lie around for more than 24 hours if at all possible. Beyond that, however, is a whole lot more. When I am on the telephone with you, I never, EVER put you on hold to take another call. The new caller will be directed to leave a voice message and my telephone tells me that there are messages as soon as I’m finished with you. I know that I’m not 25 years old and that a lot of technology has sprung up since I was younger but I do like technology and am eager to embrace it when it serves me. I don’t serve it. Let me say that again: I don’t serve technology. I serve people. There’s a very important message there I think.
So, back to the phone call… When I am speaking with you, you are my only priority. I don’t sort my mail or doodle about other projects, I listen to you, take notes, and make suggestions when asked. I give you as much time as you need to get the answers that you need to feel comfortable about decisions being made and money being spent. I am always happy to hear from you, even if it’s often. If I don’t have time to talk, I will let my voice mail answer and then call you back the moment I am free. In other words, I’ll never answer the phone and say “I can’t talk now”. I hate that and I think that it’s rude for a business to treat clients in this way.
I am also always happy to make recommendations for other vendors, even if you should decide not to hire us. I know that planning a wedding is often overwhelming and if I can help sort through some of the confusion for you, it’s my pleasure to do so.
Having said all of these wonderful things about how I take care of my customers I will also admit that I’m not perfect. I do make mistakes from time to time and I miss calling a client back once in awhile. I try not to make a practice of it, but in the event that things happen (for example, I got the flu recently and work just piled up while I was feverish and it has taken several weeks to get caught up) the first thing that I do is own up to it. I am apologetic and humble, and grateful to my clients for having the patience to wait. It’s the very least I can do and it doesn’t cost me anything to do it. It seems that more often than not people who make mistakes spend a lot of time and energy looking for someone to blame for their mistakes and the fact is that most folks are very understanding if only we are honest and humble about being human.
There are also instances where, for whatever reason, a client isn’t happy with the way things are going. I would like to think that everything is always perfect but we all know that sometimes things just don’t go according to plan. I’ll give you an example: A couple of years ago, I was hired by a corporate client to provide very elegant classical music for a welcome reception for a high-level corporate retreat. I spoke with the client several times and was assured that classical was what they wanted, and they hired me to play flute with my guitarist. The night of the event came and we began to play. After about 15 minutes, the CEO of this rather large corporation sauntered over and said, “You know, your music is beautiful and I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but good lord, this is boring! Don’t you have anything… you know, livelier?” I knew what he meant because classical music is elegant, beautiful and a wonderful backdrop for lots of types of events but what he really wanted was something a little more fun. My first thought was, and I said it to him: “How can we fix it for you?” I wasn’t offended and I wasn’t angry because this man wasn’t the person who decided on the music and even if he was, he obviously had a different idea from me of what classical music was. I said to him that I had another instrument in the car and could play some Frank Sinatra jazz with vocals to boot and he was ecstatic! We re-grouped and began to play and he sauntered back over and said, “Now this is great!” Problem solved. No drama, no tears and no discomfort to the client.
The moral of this entry is that providing good customer service is like the old definition of good manners: It’s all about making people feel comfortable. Don’t try to impress them, don’t belittle them, and don’t blame them even if they’re a little bit in the wrong. In the end it doesn’t matter that you’re right or better or whatever. It matters that the client feels comfortable.
So many times I talk to brides who say that they called a vendor who never called back. Personally I feel that even if I’m booked, I owe the courtesy of a quick telephone call to say that I’m booked and to perhaps recommend someone else to call. It takes 5 minutes and leaves the caller with a good opinion about my business and moreover, it makes her feel important. Don’t do business with people who don’t value you and those businesses will either learn better customer service or get out of the way for businesses who already understand the value of it.