Customer Connection — The Human Touch

When talking about customer service we are definitely getting into a good news/bad news kind of situation.

The bad news: Levels of customer satisfaction with service in so many industries have dropped to almost undetectable levels. Whether dealing with airlines, car dealerships, doctors, or local coffee shops, customers everywhere are reporting lower and lower levels of satisfaction with the kind of service they are receiving.

The good news: Because of these lower levels of expectation, any business, including the summer camp that makes the extra effort to reach out to people and show them that they are valued as customers will reap the rewards of those efforts.

One Simple Idea

Good customer service can be broken down to one simple idea: good communication. That’s really what we are talking about when we talk about customer service. The way your show you care for campers and their families is going to be determined by how you communicate with them. And how you communicate with them is going to determine how they feel about you and your camp.

Let’s break down the idea of good communication into basic key aspects of customer service. These elements are designed to work across a summer camp’s entire year.

Throughout this article I will use the terms customer service and customer care interchangeably, because how you offer service to the families and campers will, in their minds, show how much you care for them as customers and people.

It’s ALL Customer Service

That’s right. Everything you do, everything your camp is based on, and everything that goes on in your everyday life of running a camp is actually customer service. Summer camps are in the people business, and particularly in the children business. As such, the native level of customer care needs to be a lot higher, than say, the tire shop down the street.

Camps deal with children and families all year long. That’s the business they are in. The level of trust needed for parents to send their child to your camp needs to be very, very strong. And that trust needs to be nurtured and developed consistently, over a period of time. From first contact, all the way through to alumni reunions years later, each camper and parent needs to feel that they have been treated especially well by your camp.

Parents want to feel good about choosing a summer camp. Make sure that you give everyone involved as many reasons as possible to feel good about yours.

So, let’s look at what I mean when I say it’s all customer serviceā€¦

Pre-Customer Care

Pre-customer care is my term to describe the period of communication before anyone has agreed to attend your camp. And in pre-customer service, as in every step of the customer care process, the little things count.

As we discussed in last month’s article on holistic branding, everything that the camp does is going to affect how the camp is perceived.

So let’s start with something very simple: Phone calls. This is one of the primary ways camps are contacted. By phone. Someone has gotten your number, maybe from a Web site, maybe a letter, maybe a poster. But someone has taken the time to contact your camp for more information. So this is your first strategic level of impression.

How is the phone answered? By a real person? Or an automated system that gives a menu of extensions and options? I for one, and I am sure many would agree with me, dearly miss the days of a live person on the other end of a phone call. It may be convenient to have an automated system, but at what cost?

There’s a commercial making the rounds for a credit card company that dramatizes how painful it is to use an automated, inhuman system; I’m sure we’ve all beaten our phones against the wall just trying to reach a human being.

And nobody really likes to leave messages. You can never be sure if they will be listened to at all, much less be returned.

The new trend: have a human being available, and available immediately. The solution can be as simple as forwarding incoming calls to your cell phone, contracting an answering service, or simply having a person on hand who can answer telephone inquiries. Those who take advantage of this new trend toward human availability will reap the customer care rewards.

It could make a big difference in how people feel about your camp. Turning over that all important first level of human contact to a machine is taking customer care for granted; a human voice should always be considered the first line of customer service.

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