Let's Not Waste Each Other's Time

Can we talk for a moment about customer service? We know, particularly in the social media age, gaffs and kudos are talked about in real time and make an impact on how an organization is perceived. The ability to provide superior deliverables in a timely manner is a soft skill worthy of conversation.

At the root, customer service is about delivering whatyou say you will deliver,when you say you’ll deliver it. It’s pretty simple and yes, there are other aspects, like appreciation, responsiveness, and problem-solving that are part of the mix. For the sake of this essay, however, I’d like to look at time management.

Recently, I encountered two separate events that made clear to me the role of time management in customer service. The first was a restaurant. I had gone online to the restaurant’s website very early in the morning on a Saturday to make a reservation. I was forwarded to a booking website. I made my reservation and received an email confirmation. That night when my family and I went to the restaurant at the prescribed hour, we found the waiting area was packed. Standing room only. When I went to the desk to check in, I was told that they don’t actually accept reservations and that they consider it “call ahead.” And then I was dismissed. The person turned away from me and resumed her conversation with another front-house person. My family and I waited 20 minutes and then I went back to the desk. I again asked about the reservation I had made and she told me that everyone in the waiting area (probably about 50 people) had “called ahead.” We left immediately and found somewhere else to eat.

This was customer service at its worst. They utilized a reservation system that they didn’t actually honor, their front house staff was rude and ineffective and ultimately, they didn’t seem to care how they treated potential customers. I can only assume that based on the number of people waiting, the food must be manna from heaven. I’ll never know because I’m not going back.

The second event was a nail salon. I booked an appointment two days out through their website and with a specific technician. When I arrived for my appointment, I was asked to put my name on a list and wait. I ended up waiting 45 minutes for services provided by someone other than the person with whom I made the appointment. Eventually, my mani/pedi was well done and the technician was excellent. I probably will go back one more time and hope that they make better use of their scheduling system.

In neither of these examples was my time honored. Time and time management is always a factor in customer service. Let me repeat that. Always a factor in customer service. When we buy a product or service, part of what we are promised is timeliness. Reservations and appointments are social contracts. Yes, there should be some flexibility. Yes, sometimes restaurants, doctor’s offices (!) and nail salons run behind. Yet, the bigger picture is always the same - are you delivering what you promise, when you say you will? If not, you have some work to do.

LB Adams is the Founder of Practical Dramatics headquartered in Charleston, SC.  Her company uses theatre skills to help humans grow more profitable conversations with other humans.