Had an interesting experience recently – let me lay out some background for you. First you need to know that we live in a rural area where all the properties are 10 acres. Every day Sugar, Ebony (sometimes Kyle) and I go for walks. There is really only one route we can take. On that route all the horses are behind dog proof fencing, as are all the dogs. There is one small exception to this. One home is 100% dog fenced, except for the wrought iron gate across their driveway. This family has a dog named Buddy. Buddy is maybe 20 or 25 pounds. It is very easy for him to walk through the gate and come to say Hello. This would be fine with me, except that though he gets along fine with other dogs, he’s not so fond of people. He’s bitten me twice and Kyle once. Only one bite actually broke the skin.

I had first talked with Buddy’s ‘father’ when I saw him outside in December 2010. At that time Buddy had bitten me once and I requested that they put some wire mesh across the bottom of their gate so that Buddy couldn’t get out. Nothing happened. In January Buddy bit Kyle. In February he bit me – this time breaking the skin. Since I didn’t have a phone number for these people, I wrote them a very polite letter telling them what happened and again asking that they put wire mesh on their gate. Buddy’s ‘mother’ called me and assured me that they would get the gate secured. (Caller ID provided her cell phone number.) Still hasn’t been done... Buddy still gets out. The only way to deter him from going for our ankles is to throw stones at him, which I don’t like to do on general principle. I’ve learned that carrying a walking stick is also a good deterrent, and there is no chance I could really hurt Buddy with the walking stick. Just waving it in front of him makes him take a few steps back.

Buddy was getting out more frequently and I was getting more annoyed. I really enjoy my daily walks but Buddy, or the possibility of Buddy being out, was definitely putting a damper on my enjoyment. I had called Buddy’s parents a few times, always getting voice mail. So I wrote another letter. In this letter I said if Buddy was out one more time I would call Animal Control. Buddy was out one more time, and I did call Animal Control. And this is where we get to the Customer Service concept.

A very nice and professional Sheriff’s Detective / Animal Control officer came out on my call. She did talk with Buddy’s mom, and then reported back to me. Buddy’s mom admitted the only reason they hadn’t put the wire mesh on the gate was laziness. That’s it – plain and simple laziness. That got me thinking – how often does shear laziness impact Customer Service in business? If people can be so “lazy” that they can’t string some chicken wire across 20 feet of gate to keep their dog from biting the neighbors (and possibly get them large fines and jail time), what does that say about their attitude in taking care of details for their customers and clients?

So I decided to do some research and found a fascinating study reported on in October 2010. The headline is “Slow Customer Response Costing UK Businesses Billions” – yup, billions. The article opens with this fact, “UK brands have lost a huge 70 billion pounds ($113,631,014,124.34 on May 22, 2011) worth of business this year (2010) because of a failure to respond quickly enough to potential customers”. Did a little more research and based on the UK’s GNP for 2009, that is 20% of their total GNP!!!

The article goes on to say that the number breaks down to 30,000 pounds ($48,655.65 on May 22, 2010) per business – for every business in the United Kingdom, big or small. Yikes! Just for being more timely in replying to customers you can add almost $50,000 to your bottom line. I say get moving!

And this is not just a European problem. I would say that at least 50% of the business owners I talk with say that creating a sense of urgency in their employees is one of their biggest challenges. My response to that is education and motivation through contests, bonuses and the like to get staff into a more pro-active mindset. It is important for everyone today to realize that in this digital age in which we live, even waiting 24 for a reply can seem like an eternity. And if I am shopping for a product or service and do not getting timely call backs, I’m on to the next business on the list that does call me back.

Author's Bio: 

Heidi McCarthy has been customer focused her whole life, getting a good orientation in her first job working as waitress while putting herself through college. After college she worked in the corporate arena for 8 years where she learned the ins and outs of working in a corporate culture including customer service working with and traveling to clients across North America. Next she worked with her husband in his salvage diving business where dealing with the “rich and famous” taught her much about people’s expectations. Running a consulting business she started working with Custom Training Institute. The consulting soon became a full time job, where she became the General Manager and Director of Operations. This job showed Heidi the immense need for what has become her specialty niche – customer service in the electronic universe.

Additionally, Heidi has the ability of being able to see holes in systems that on the surface look to be good and solid. And, she loves to teach – to share what she has learned .

Heidi’s passion for excellence in business caused her to found Toughest Customer, where today she helps companies grow and retain customers through improved customer service and extreme client care.