Most people working in animal welfare are there to help save animals' lives. Many of these same people fail to see the direct connection between customer service and the number of animals saved. Shelters and rescues who have amazing customer service, who go above and beyond to help the customer, who have front line staff capable and willing to make decisions and who do whatever it takes to make the customer's experience memorable for the right reasons are the ones who adopt the most animals and can, in turn, take the most animals in and help save the most lives. These organizations build fans who will tell all their family, friends and strangers to adopt from the same organization.
Customer service is about the customer. It's not about rules or policies or telling staff what they should do in every situation. Obviously, this can not happen. Great customer service starts with giving staff the tools and the knowledge to make decisions, to come up with new ways to help and engage the customer, to speak with people with respect, to listen and to help the customer find exactly who/what they are looking for in a way that feels like a partnership and not a dictatorship. It starts with all staff and volunteers smiling and saying hello to the customers. If your place of business is not inviting, people won't come, no matter how big or beautiful it is.
With the infinite number of places for people to shop/adopt/conduct business on-line and off, what are you doing to make your customer's feel valued? If you can't quickly answer this question, the time to start focusing is now. No matter your business, if you don't have customers, you can't do what you have set out to do. The animal welfare community has to start realizing there is a direct line between stellar customer service and more lives saved. We have to start acting like it, too.