3 Questions Featured

7:00pm EDT February 23, 2009

Sue Park is vice president of customer service for The Home Depot Inc. and is responsible for driving key initiatives designed to improve customer service issue resolution inside and outside the store. Prior to this role, Park was regional vice president of the Northern Plains where she was responsible for the sales and operations for 83 retail stores, spanning six states in the Northern Plains region.

What does good customer service entail?

Knowing your customer is vital, and understanding that there’s a difference between your customers and stakeholders is important. Actively listening to customers through multiple channels, such as one on one or surveys, will let you know their needs and opportunities. You can’t turn a customer into a number because you’ll lose focus on who pays the bills. Make customer service an essential discipline for all employees but be versatile so a change of tactics is possible if necessary.

Should companies be investing in customer service in a poor economy?

Yes. You have to have been investing and evaluating how you’re investing. Smart customer service decisions don’t always come from a new technology investment or spending more money, but it could come from other areas like leadership and coaching and listening to your customers in different ways. Your time and prioritizing customer service have to be there in good times and in bad.

Do customers have expectations of good customer service, or in general, do they expect little from businesses?

In general, particularly now, with the economy the way it is, people expect to be appreciated and that their business is appreciated because they have a choice as to where they can spend their money. You’re most successful when front-line employees are empowered to provide answers to customers and you have strong customer service practices. If an employee feels good about providing good customer service, that will be carried over to the customer. If there’s a problem, the employee will feel good about resolving the issue, which is desirable from a time perspective and meets or exceeds the customer’s expectations.