The other day, I was chatting with a business operations expert about customer service. 

In short, we were discussing what has become of it … where did it go? The expert told me that she believed that American businesses are getting hip to the fact that if they truly want loyal customers who will continually buy their products, they must change their business models and improve how they deal with clients. 

We all have horror stories about how we’ve been disrespected by companies that use automated phone systems or customer service operators – bless their hearts – from other parts of the world who really don’t have the tools to properly address our concerns.  Cultural differences need not hinder good customer service; the true problem is outsourcing – not the act of outsourcing itself, but rather the philosophy often behind it.  Many businesses have opted for the bottom line and sacrificed their integrity in exchange for the wrath of frustrated customers who clearly see that these companies are not being true to their brands and mission statements.  This is how some companies are rolling toward their inevitable doom ... if customers have any say in the matter, which they do indeed.

Yet, it’s the epiphany that I just had that has me sitting here chatting with you.  Just moments ago, I realized that the art world is almost completely devoid of even the notion of customer service.  It’s almost non-existent.  I’ve been on many art trips to many art venues all across the country and I sure don’t see it.

However, I will say this.  I HAVE seen some improvement among art galleries in the past few years.  I think that they’re slowly beginning to see that people have other options and ways of seeing and BUYING art … namely ONLINE.

I’ve done this for years with regard to buying suits.  I got so tired of dealing with pushy, unfriendly salespeople that I buy my suits almost exclusively online.  It would be nice to keep my money in the local economy, but what’s a person to do?

Isn’t it a shame that it takes the threat of something else to get people to do what they should’ve been doing all along with regard to customers and clients?

I know this very talented artist who – for lack of a better way of putting it – is a hideous business person with little or no people skills.  I own quite of few of this particular artist’s paintings.  However, I’ve decided that I won’t buy anymore of this artist’s work.  It’s just not worth it.  I’ve endured long shipping delays, unreturned email and even some rudeness and I’m a CUSTOMER!  I’m an art collector! 

So many people believe that all it takes to succeed in this world is talent.  Talent is important, but at the end of the day, it’s only part of the equation.  Customer service is a HUGE part of the picture. 

I don’t care WHO you are … whether you’re Target, a girl scout selling cookies outside a supermarket, a rock star promoting a new song or an artist trying to sell your work … customer service should be your number ONE priority.

I am convinced that great customer service can make the difference in how people even perceive the quality of some products.  You may not have loved the food you ate at a particular restaurant, but if you got great treatment, you’ll almost surely give them a second chance, no?

You know, I think that one of the reasons why customer service has become so bad is because people feel there’s no immediate benefit to be had from being courteous and responsive to other people’s needs.  In short, “what’s in it for me?”

That’s where we seem to be now as a society.  “What’s in it for me?”  When everyone asks that question, you quickly have a society where almost nothing is getting done properly.  We’re dangerously close to that now, aren’t we?

I’ve come to realize that if I do my best for people and stop being concerned about, “what’s in it for me,” I DO actually get some benefits.  Also, let me say that the customer is NOT always right.  There are some HORRIBLE customers out there who sometimes need correction, but keep in mind, if they’re spending money for your products, they’re customers nonetheless.

I’m not really a Lady Gaga fan, but one of the things that I admire about her is that she treats her fans with RESPECT.  It’s common sense and “Customer Service 101.”  She is a creative talent who has basically built her career on good customer service and public relations.

All the art world requires is a little correction and we could rival the sports and entertainment worlds on any front … including money. 

Artists, art dealers, museums, foundations, can’t you just hear the cash registers ringing?  It all begins with …