How many of you emailed, wrote or phoned a charity but received no responses at all? Either no one replied, calls couldn’t get through or the one who eventually answered the call just said a single No before putting down their handset? I phoned a few food banks lately and enquired about donating some surplus food, but in most cases; what I’ve got in response was frustrating because of their poor manners. Three out of five, the receptionist just said, ‘No, we don’t accept it.’ Hang up. The other two times, the conversations were something like,
Receptionist: ‘I don’t know who’s responsible for that.’
Me: ‘So, how can I make sure if you accept the donation of …?’
Receptionist: ‘Send us an email at the general enquiry email address...’ Disconnected!
At another occasion, I signed up to volunteer for an organization and received an email confirmation which promised to provide further details in due course. I called on the day before the event, because I’ve still got no words from the organization. All I heard at that brief conversation was “Oh, sorry. Because of oversubscription and that we had an internal communications issue, we no longer require your service.” No explanation why no one took the initiative to update me the situation but just kept me in the dark, no promise of what is gonna do to prevent it from happening again, no reasoning of what makes a communication issue that was supposed to be their internal matter but end up affecting their volunteers.
At all occasions, their tone was too cold, remote, unpleasant, robotic, sounds like I was interrupting, let alone being friendly. No offence but this is one common attitude issue among small to medium-sized charities. I have interviewed a number of such charities subsequently and that the most shared answer was they are not a business and their colleagues are not sales professionals, so ‘customer service’ is not something in their DNA. And that the service they defined are the service that they provide to the beneficiaries and users.
Is it true that only commercial entities and salesperson or customer service pro that require to be customer-oriented? Definitely not! The reality is customer service is not a department, or whether it is sales-related but an attitude. This is nothing more true than in the third sector because we are indeed in the service industry too. Rather than serving a customer for profit, we are serving our beneficiaries, service users, the environment, the community for a better future, for a hope, a dream. Put it another way, if we were, say an airline or a household appliances store; and that the service provided by our ticketing agent or frontline sales staff are not as good as hoped, we still have our inflight product, the inflight experience or the quality or range of appliance to appeal to the customer and win their hearts.
How about a charity? What else but the exceptional service you provided. And here we should not focus solely on serving the beneficiaries or service users and consider them as our only service recipients. Besides of our existing donors, enquirers are our potential supporters if we serve them right. They contact your organization making an enquiry in the first place instead of someone else is, in fact, the first step in showing their interests in your organization as even some sorts of initial endorsement.
Thus far, can’t you see how important they are? If you do it right, we have a choice in turning them into your supporter or donor; if not, they will surely go elsewhere and it is likely that they will share within their circle or publicly of such a bad experience they had. Thus, do you still believe customer service is none of your business just because your charitable nature? Think again! Take the necessary step in planting such a mindset in your frontline colleagues. Otherwise, I’m 100 percent sure there would be another organizations who are more than happy to serve these enquirers with far better manner and customer service and turn them into their supporters.