How often have we heard horror stories of lousy service providers? Plenty. But who were those customers who complained? Nobody can be at fault 100% of the time, with 100% of the blame, service provider, or customer alike. How then, can you get great business partners or service providers? Look into the mirror.
I remember fondly, three old friends for decades, and all three of them I have met in the nineties. Let me call them by their initials, "G", "R", and "D".
"G" is a successful entrepreneur in fashion brands. "R" is an acknowledged expert in customer service. "D" is a superlative expert in Internet and UNIX systems. All three friends are still friends, all of whom I respect and admire a great deal.
What spurred this article is an opinion piece from an advertising practitioner, about what agency-client relationships ought to be to get the best mileage over the long haul. And then I looked at all my clients and service providers from the day I set foot in the work arena till now, and I realized, I have known this all along, just from three old friends!
The first friend "G" is someone I met in the mid-nineties. We met through other friends, and we had no business relationship then, for a long time. He is a successful entrepreneur in fashion products, and sometime in the late nineties, I was surprised he got me to create a cinema advertising campaign. At that time, desktop video post-production was nascent and yet this friend was forward-looking at that time to request such a project. I was pleasantly surprised. Many years ago, our paths crossed again and he engaged us to be the publicist for his brands. He is a cultured gentleman who is ever-ready with a smile, and always putting the feelings of people first. I respect his success working with people more than I admire his business success. He is a friend I gladly eat a meal with anytime.
The second friend "R" is a customer service expert, someone who worked alongside with me in the nineties, helping to define customer service training for the industries. He is an eternal optimist with an unstoppable positive energy that would rub off on anyone in his path, and it is easy to see why he is successful all this while. But when he and I pursued different career interests, eventually our paths crossed again. The second time we met, he was still specializing the same, but I had moved on the technology and marketing consulting. He was kind enough to persuade me to assist him in promoting his personal brand, and we gladly accepted. He was a demanding client, but we were happy to work with him. Why? He was fair. He compensated us fairly. And most of all, he is a gentleman who respects other professionals. That is why even today, I see him more as a friend, than a customer. I would gladly recommend him to anyone who needs an expert in his area.
The third friend "D" is someone I met when I became an independent marketing and communication consultant after I left the computing industry. It was the beginning of the Internet, and I needed a technology service provider for web hosting and domain name registration. This friend is an absolute technology "wizard" who could answer any and all my technical queries on the get-go, without ever giving vague answers. He is clear. He is succinct. He is efficient. And to top it off, he too, is a gentleman and a friend. We are still in touch today, and I am still his customer, even though the Internet landscape is now littered with cheaper alternatives. I trust him, and I would rather work with him than just any other cheaper alternative by the dozen.
Friends "G" and "R" taught me the value of customer service from the perspective of being great exemplary customers, while "D" taught me the value of service from the perspective of what a top-notch service provider can be. Having been on both sides of the equation with the three of them, among many others, I learned the value of customer service lies in being the best customer I can be, by being a gentleman, and by nurturing my knowledge and experience to be able to serve customers well.
Getting great customer service is really about sincerity and warmth, and putting hands and feet to learn and to do. Merely paying lip service with a hollow heart, and having hands and feet that never got dirty in the fields, will not polish and refine to be worthy service providers. Merely demanding the world from others without paying due respect to others will not elevate us to be worthy customers.