Are you Customer Servant or Overhead?

Papadakis Photography
I was talking to my son Brian the other day about the company he works for and the challenges he faces in selling their products. Part of their justification for pricing is linked to their ability to provide customer service. Other companies can offer lower prices, but if something goes wrong or if they have any questions they have a live person to assist you. The competition’s justification for pricing is the fact that they can sell products at a lower price because they don’t have the same overhead costs.

Built into the customer service logic is the belief that people will pay more for a product if the value in the long run makes it worth their while. If it saves time, aggravation, cost down the road and gives them peace of mind, it is a worthwhile investment.

How are you perceived at work? How do you view yourself? How do you rate in the minds of the competition? Are you a customer servant providing value for the job you occupy? Are you just overhead, the interchangeable vulnerable cost of doing business?

If you are a customer servant, people love to have you around. You have done your homework and are prepared to give them valid answers to their questions. You anticipate their needs and lay the foundation for making their job easier. People consult with you often because they know they can count on you, almost as a concierge would make valid recommendations. They know you are there for them and will recommend you and your company, because of how well they were treated. You are a GPS that knows where they are in their thinking and in their business.

If your company, customers or competitors see you as overhead, it is safe to say that your days are numbered. When the company sees you as an added expense, it is only a matter of time, in this cost-cutting era for them to find a way to outsource or eliminate your role.

If your customer sees you as overhead, they will not display the loyalty required for you to sustain profitability. Frequent purchases or repeat is questionable. They will very easily be swayed to another product or service whenever they have a choice. Customers realize that it is a buyer’s market and there are other companies courting them for their business. They do not have to accept shoddy treatment and less than the best behavior from anyone. They want enthusiastic customer servants who are thankful for their business. They want the interaction to be a pleasant experience that satisfies their needs.

Many customers have heard the old adage, “you can tell how a company treats their employees by how their employees treat their customers. If your behavior is not indicative of how your company wants to treat customers, your company can not afford to have you work for them. Your behavior is giving them a bad name. It is about company refutation and image and if you are out of line, you will be left behind.

If your competitors see you as overhead, they will work relentlessly to put you out of business. They will be more confident and aggressive in their interactions with your customers and will capitalize on the customer’s perception of you. They will be as a shark when they see blood in the water. The competition will constantly go for your jugular and exploit the fact that you are not honoring your promises or treating the customer with quality service which includes dignity and respect. The competition is already formidable in many markets. You don’t want to give them an added advantage that is linked to your weakness in being a poor customer servant.

You can look in the mirror and tell if you are a customer servant or overhead by your answers to the following questions.

1. Are customers delighted to hear from you and often go out of their way to contact you? This question speaks to the relationships that you have established with your clients.
2. Do you provide work that can easily be done by someone else or a computer or answering service?
3. Do you have a personality that is warm and connects with people?
4. Are customers dissatisfied with your encounters to the extent they complain to management?
5. Have you gone out of your way to show a client how much you appreciate their business?
6. Are you providing a service that would be difficult to find elsewhere?
7. What makes you so special?
8. Is your level of follow-up a marvel to behold?
9. Do you often anticipate your client’s needs?
10. Do you make it a habit of going above and beyond your client’s expectations?

Overhead has always been considered as part of the cost of doing business. It was a given, an expectation and something that people felt was necessary. This was part of the justification for print and mortar businesses. Companies housed people in buildings to have face-to-face contact with customers. We have seen the reduction in brick and mortar businesses as Internet businesses continue to explode on the scene. However, there seems to be resurgence in companies that have direct contact with the consumer. They feel quality customer servants play a vital role in their marketing plans.

You may speak as a realist and say that in many situations you are both. You are a hybrid person with dual functionality. You are listed on the budget as overhead, but you provide a customer service job. I won’t argue against this claim, but will add that if you are practically listed as overhead, you must not function as overhead nor allow yourself to think of yourself as overhead. Your dominant function should be as a customer servant, admired by your clients and profitable to the organization.

A company you will rarely have a competitive advantage if their people, often their number one expense, are performing as overhead rather than customer servants. Where do you see yourself? Where does your customer see you? Are you performing in such a way that your competitors are inspired to go to work every day? Are they excelling because they know that you are there competition? Where do you stand? Are you a customer servant or overhead?

Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser

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