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  • Jon Polly

Red Stapler Customer Service

Seems like the start of a B rated comedy. In a land far away sits Milton in a cubicle with a red stapler with the sole purpose of answering every question you ever have about his company’s product. Now we all know Milton can answer every question but he’s not the best.  Therein lies the comedy… or tragedy.  If we are honest with ourselves, we all know Milton, or at times, we have been Milton ourselves.

It’s Not My Job

We are all customer service agents. It does not matter to the customer if you are the engineer, or the sales staff, or in manufacturing, or if you are the customer service representative sitting in the cubicle with the red stapler. We all have a major part to play and how others view our employer, both internally and externally. Whether it’s selling clothes in a retail store, working in a restaurant, or we have an office out of the view of the public eye,  we all offer customer service.

In 2013 TimeTrade Systems published an Executive Survey Brief.  Two things I found extremely interesting.  In a retail setting, 70% of retailers report that if a consumer has not been helped, they will wait less than 5 minutes before abandoning the purchase.  This equated to 60% of the lost revenue.  When the person is knowledgeable about the business, sales will increase 25-50%.  If Milton is not empowered to be a support person, only to take a name and pass the information along, how likely are we going to use his or the company’s services again?  Incidentally there's also a statistic that if you make face-to-face contact with a person when they walked through the door they were less likely to steal while in the store, therefore cutting down on loss. 

While we as professionals don't typically come to work directly on the sales floor or in the trenches at a restaurant on a busy Friday night, too many times we treat vendors and end users with a lack of customer service.  Did you call them back immediately or did it take two days to call them back? Did the person express a sense of urgency and you were too busy to be for them?  Was the person needing customer service a co-worker?

Proactive or Reactive Customer Service

Is your business proactive in customer service?  Are you checking up on your customers (be it the other business unit across the cubicle or the person working in the store)?  Are you interacting with them before they have a chance to ask you a question?  Are you sitting down with the end-user to gauge their temperature on how your company is meeting their needs? 

Is your business reactive in customer service?  Are you waiting for the customer to ask a question? How long does it take?  Do your customers want your involvement or not?  Are you equipped for the unknown?  Are your representatives?

The right customer service is like building a relationship.  In a good relationship, you know what the other wants before they do.  If it’s a good relationship, the customer will purchase more and tell everyone else to do the same. 

First Impressions are Lasting Impressions

How long would a company stay in business if an urgent matter was met with a next business day response, or an attitude from a customer service representative simply because?  Is there an acceptable loss of a customer?  A first impression is made in the first 7 seconds of a meeting.  If that impressions is bad, it has been documented that 80% of those customers would stop business with the company.  Over 30% would recommend others to stay away. 

How can we build in proactive customer service tools?  Does the customer service representative sitting in a cubicle see a sense of urgency and the customer’s voice? Does he have an avenue to escalate whatever the customer feels urgent about to someone higher?  Or is it put in the queue with all the others and it will get answered when the time comes?  Does he have the tools to de-escalate a client?

Yes, the red stapler and Milton are from the movie Office Space.  Many of us remember the movie because of Milton and the red stapler.  Prior to the movie, Swingline did not produce a red stapler.  The movie needed something so special that Milton wouldn’t want to part with it.  The production designer for the movie got authorization from Swingline to paint 4 staplers for the movie.  The movie released in 1999.  By 2002 there were so many requests for red Swingline staplers that Swingline began producing the Rio Red 747 Business Staplers.  Not only was it successful product placement, but had they not listened to the customer, they may have successfully missed out on what apparently customers wanted and were willing to pay double for it.  The Swingline red stapler retailed at $30 a unit while the black Swingline retailed for $15.

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