Here’s why customer service is just like a restroom in a restaurant. If you’re running a business, any type of business you have to have some kind of customer service in place (just like when you’re running a restaurant you have to have a restroom).

Not too long ago I recorded a podcast that looked at ways you can show you care in business and it used the restroom in a restaurant as an example. 

This article goes a step further. Having spent five hectic weeks flying across the world and talking to global companies in industries as diverse as data storage and toiletries, I have seen that the similarities between how businesses treat their customer service obligations and how restaurants think about their restrooms are, more than passingly, associated with each other.

Here are ten touchpoints between the two:

1. Customer service (like rest rooms) is a drain on resources and does not add to sales.

2. Just like rest rooms in restaurants, Customer Service departments are tacked away in a corner of a business.

3. Customer service is usually disconnected from the rest of the business.

4. The Customer Service experience (just like a restroom) can either make or break the quality of the end-user experience.

5. Customer service (just like restrooms) may not add to sales but it does add to reputation.

6. Customer service (and restrooms) are usually under-resourced with businesses doing the bare minimum to set them up and keep them in play.

7. Customer service is a department that has direct feedback on a company’s products or services and the end-user experience. Yet, just like in a restaurant, the owner never thinks of getting feedback on the restroom experience (and learn a little about how a restaurant is perceived through expressed sentiment) so most business never even think of reaching out to Customer Service to find out what their customers and clients think about them.

8. Customer service is frequently associated with the ‘sharp’ edge of a business. Most queries and customer contact there is likely to be adversarial because something went wrong (or something is not quite right) and customers now require a service. As a result those who do it feel under-appreciated and forgotten by the rest of the company and no one wants to do it willingly.

9. Customer service (just like restrooms) is there to meet a primary, urgent need. When customers access the service they really need to get something done or resolve, quickly. Patience is not their strong suit and the ability to satisfy their needs quickly colors their perception of the company.

10. Just like restrooms Customer Service departments have limited resources to deal with a lot of people on a daily basis and cope with the odd spike in traffic and demand for their services. If processes are not in place to help cope with all that, regardless, then the experience is not likely to be a positive one and that will reflect badly on the company.

Bottom Line

Every business is made up of many moving parts. No business can thrive for long if each one of those does not pull its weight and perform to the standard expected of the company, as a whole. I frequently see customer service being paid lip service to in companies’ literature and brochures but never being taken seriously when it comes to the daily running of the company.

It is only when that approach changes that a business begins to get in touch with its customers dealing with them respectfully, in a helpful way even when it least wants to. (And in case you were wondering the amazing restroom in the picture used to illustrate this article belongs to Fort Smith Regional Airport, Arkansas and totally makes the point).