I recently came across an article by Tom Belford on The Agitator blog asking “Is Customer Service Important?”  The article implied that as event fundraisers and nonprofit organizations, maybe we don’t think of our job as customer service. 

I thought the article did a wonderful job of opening up the door to a conversation that has always been a passion of mine–providing above and beyond customer service to ensure you leave people happier than when they first came to you.

As far as I’m concerned, everyone, regardless of their title or position, is in the customer service business.  No matter your job title, you are responsible for the impression you set with your constituents.  And in this day and age with how easily people are able to report on their experiences via all sorts of social media platforms, this is a fundamental belief everyone should get behind.

In my work, I’ve helped champion a few initiatives to measure customer satisfaction (more on that another day and in another post).  I’ve found it’s the best way for us to be in touch with how our constituents feel we’re doing in providing them with the service we hope to be giving every day.  On top of that, it gives us the opportunity to hear how we can do something better and to clarify important procedures and the reasoning behind them–especially when someone doesn’t quite understand the method to our madness.

More than anything, I’ve been happily surprised at the reaction we’ve received when following-up on a comment or with unhappy constituents.  It’s unfortunate, but people expect subpar service these days.  When calling a toll-free number, many of us have years of bad experiences with people who just don’t care about their job.  Their lack of job satisfaction is more than clear in how your conversation plays out.  But when we take the time to reach out, people are surprised and happy to hear from us.  Most of the time they say, “I didn’t expect to hear from anyone!”  And the conversation plays out pleasantly from there, even if the conversation doesn’t go the constituent’s way.  Further proving, how important and impactful it is to take the time to go out of your way to make people feel validated and heard. 

Exceeding expectations doesn’t take a lot and it is not difficult.  It’s the small things that matter most in the customer service arena and can make the difference between a good and great experience. 

When I first started working in event fundraising nearly ten years ago (wow, has it really been that long?), I was given advice that’s stuck with me this whole time and has proven helpful in any situation I find myself in:  Don’t drop the football.  So whether we’re on event, leading an in person meeting or answering the phones, we aim to do everything we can to not drop the football and provide the best service possible.

I hope you consider how important your part is in helping create meaningful and positive interactions at every point with your constituents.  And if someone isn’t happy with your service, make sure you have a way to hear the feedback and you take the time to follow-up.  You can turn almost any bad experience around–you just have to care enough about and be in tune with your constituents to make it happen.

Photo by Molly Fast, Palm Springs, CA 2011. A reminder to turn your customer service lemons into lemonade. You can find Molly on Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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