Customer Service and Lip Service

I was at the SM Supercenter over at Pasig City yesterday and, again, the SM people amazed me.  In their quest to surprise or even delight their customers, SM now makes their customer assistance people do a dance number — “happy to serve!”  Although I find that SM attempt bordering at being odd, I find it really encouraging that this company is really investing on ways to keep the customers coming back.  They’re in the middle of a store layout change and I’m still trying to get used to trying to find the regular items I buy — it’s like a maze in that store.  I am guessing a lot of people feel the same way, too.

Seriously, I don’t know how the dance number will make me improve my thoughts on how good SM is at customer service.  I am more of the “get out of my way, just let me by and buy”  type of guy.  Nevertheless, I think the efforts that SM does to please the shopper is a good break from feeling harassed in the store.  It’s certainly much better than being swarmed by promo merchandisers who are keen on just pushing their products — even if you do not want them.

As much as these people look “delightful and cheerful” to the customer, I am wondering — do they get some in return?  I’m in no position to comment on what a big retailer like SM does to keep their people smiling — they’re still dancing, aren’t they?  In my opinion, they have to, since it’s easy to spot a fake smile.  Fakes are always a turnoff for customers — unless you’re into knockoffs.

Anyway, delighting customers, now that is a great goal for companies in any industry.  However, I am wondering if companies really know who their customers are.  Are they just the people who walk in the stores?  Or are they just almost everyone who, in one way or another, get to experience the company or brand in their daily lives?

If I take that second thought into consideration, that’ll mean an entire army of stakeholders (that includes employees) and potential brand ambassadors.  If I take that second thought and reversed the brand experience into something negative, then that’s a potential army of badmouthers — something you wouldn’t want if you’re seriously into keeping customers on your side.  Imagine, you’re a businessman who tells external customers that you have the best service in the world, and yet, when they see your employees – internal customers – they always wear a frown because you don’t mind if they are fulfilled and satisfied with what they are doing for you.

My take:  If you’re a business owner, treat everyone in your business as customers, including employees — present and past.  Invest in creating the conditions to make them happy.  Not only will it lessen your headaches, it will also feel good.  You’ll see more of “employees in the present” than of “employees in the past.”

(This post was partly inspired by a TED Talk — Chip Conley:  Measuring what makes life worthwhile.)

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