I grew up in the "Good Old Days." When men opened doors for women. When everyone said please and thank you. When you went shopping at the grocery store they not only bagged your groceries, some nice kid carried them out to your car and put them in the trunk for you!
Now I understand that the "Good Old Days" were not perfect by any means. As a business owner I love the fact that I can get almost instantaneous response and reports on critical issues we're facing through Internet and cellular communication. But as a consumer I sure do miss quality Customer Service.
Let's dig right in, shall we? All pictures from May 2012.
Why? I suppose you could say that product and services delivered on time, on budget, that work the way they're supposed to should be satisfying in and of itself! But it's not! As human beings we desire affirmation that our decision is a good one. We want the exchange of money for goods and services to be cordial. But more importantly, we want the person receiving our money to think of us as something more than just the fist full of dollars we're handing them.
This isn't a dissertation on what happened to good customer service. I don't have the time or the finger strength to write that article. What I want to talk about is how you can help instill a culture of Customer Service in your business.
Today we are a company of 33, but about 13 years ago when we were 8 people we decided to make a commitment to shut down our business 4 days a year and go out into the community and do Good Samaritan service projects. We volunteered to fix meals for senior citizens through the Meals on Wheels program. We painted and cleaned up inner city churches that didn't have the staff to get the job done. We did spring yard work for Gilda's Club, which serves cancer patients.
Teamwork helping the Gilda's Club gardens grow!
So we would do these service projects for half the day, then we would have lunch together and do some fun activity in the afternoon like bowling or golf. A day of service and hanging out together instead of business as usual.
Here's what I began to notice: All of my folks work really hard, but often in their own task, driving solo with little interaction with other people. If they did talk to someone it was only by phone or by email. And I know this model of disassociated communication has become even more prevalent today. In fact voice to voice communication (the phone) has become almost as rare as the face-to-face meeting. They don't physically "touch" other human beings during the course of the day, not even their fellow workers. They were efficient and productive, but not very customer sensitive.
So what changed? Getting out and doing a service project together forced people who didn't always work in the same department to work together to solve problems. And because they were helping someone "in need" through their effort, they were naturally very "customer" focused. And as an affirmation that their "people helping people" skills were appreciated, they got to celebrate their efforts and the good work they had done doing something fun with the rest of their coworkers.
We are not afraid to get our hands dirty!
Well 13 years later and 25 more employees, we're still closing the business 4 days a year and doing Good Samaritan service projects. And I'm happy to say that every employee loves our service project days and appreciates the fact that we offer this unique and meaningful benefit.
And as a business owner I can see the real benefit of getting my folks out in the community, seeing them sweat, laugh, and work together for something greater and bigger than themselves. And through this journey I've found that the "Good Old Days" of customer service have become part of the very fabric of The C2 Group's culture. And that feels pretty good!
Showing off our team spirit: Nothing bonds coworkers more quickly than a little friendly competition during 2012's C2 Summer Games!
Good Samaritan projects sounding fun? Check out Kelsey's blog and see why she thinks the service days are so great.