People will never forget how you made them feel

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When Emma Lawton from HŪF Design injured her knee she embarked on a four year journey to recovery during which time she encountered both extremes of customer service that would ultimately change her life.

What does good customer service mean to you?

  • Do you think about responsiveness – the length of time it takes to get an answer?
  • Is getting things right important to you, or more specifically not getting things wrong?
  • How highly do you rate good communication? Is a confusing explanation frustrating?
  • Is being kept in the picture important?
  • Is exceeding customer expectation more important than reducing customer effort?
  • Should good customer service empower clients?
  • Can friendliness and politeness be taught?
  • Is good customer service worth the cost?

As with most areas of business plenty has been written about the core principles of good customer service.

Here’s a thought though. Are we making it more complicated than it needs to be? Surely good customer service can be summed up in one phrase that originates from a book that is centuries old. The Bible.

“Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You” – it’s part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:12).

The Medical Profession Demonstrates the Extremes of Customer Services

Four years ago my wings were clipped when I injured my knee. It was pretty devastating.  Anyway, long story short, after a long battle, I was finally referred to a surgeon for a total knee replacement.

Full of renewed hope and optimism, I trundled off for my consultation with him. His response to me knocked me sideways. He told me that being under 55 years of age, I would almost certainly be disappointed with my new knee. Because of the nature of the original injury, if the surgery went wrong I would probably have to have my leg amputated and there was a 20% chance the surgery would go wrong.

The surgeon confessed that he was deliberately discouraging me from having the operation. He also wrote to my GP to say that he was not interested in my being able to ride again. He made me doubt myself and how damaged my knee was. He made me feel worthless, that I was a malingerer.

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet” – Stephen Hawking

Now as far as I’m concerned, if you’re looking at the ground when you’re riding, that’s where you’ll end up. That is my metaphor for life.  If you go into something with a negative attitude, you are more likely to achieve a poor result. If you start with a positive mindset you have more chance of a successful outcome. Let me tell you, when it comes to going under anaesthetic and having my bones sawed and hammered into shape, I’d rather have someone with a positive outlook operating on me. So I found myself another surgeon.

Working with exactly the same facts and statistics, my new surgeon explained to me that whilst there are always risks associated with surgery and there are no guarantees in life, there was an 80% chance the surgery would be a success. He confirmed to me that my knee was “gnarley” and my femur was out of alignment with my tibia and bone was rubbing on bone. I was not malingering. He reassured me that I was taking all possible steps (losing weight and getting fit) prior to surgery to ensure the best outcome and was confident that I was well aware that an artificial knee does not work in the same way as a natural knee. He had no doubt that I would not be disappointed after surgery. He went on to say that it was highly probable that I would be able to ride again. In fact, he was due to have a knee replacement himself later in the year and had a skiing trip planned in December. In short, he was confident of a good outcome.

I could have hugged him at that moment. I was practically in tears. In the space of half an hour he had made me feel like a valid human being again.

My point is this: don’t base your level of customer service on boosting your bottom line or gaining repeat business. Take Matthew’s advice and treat your customers how you would like to be treated yourself. You have no idea what might be going on in people’s lives and what effect your actions might have on them. You have the opportunity to make them feel valued when they are in their darkest hour. You just never know. In the words of Maya Angelou (American author and civil rights activist), “People will forget what you said; people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

PS in case you’re interested, I’m 12 weeks post op and I have made (and I quote) “an outstanding recovery”. I have ditched the crutches which have never been far away for four years and instead of being a test of endurance, riding and walking my dogs are now a joy. I’m not in the least disappointed and I love it.