Customer service is at the core of any successful business -- that is until that fact is forgotten or many times not planned for appropriately.
Companies do forget. I've worked with many a growing online company that offered the epitome of a great customer service experience at the start to sadly watch them lose their way. Rubbing salt in the wound is to experience after years of being a loyal customer, that I am now not worth the "extras" or special pricing that are used to lure new customers.
How does customer service get sucky?
- Companies grow too quickly and lose the culture of the "customer is first" attitude.
- They get full of themselves and think they are so good that folks won't look elsewhere.
- Customer service reps are not qualified for the position. Most only able to read off of scripts and unable to use any cognitive thinking to actually solve customer concerns.
- Customer service reps that are qualified and do seem to care are not given any authority to make things right or channels to bring to light needed and necessary improvements.
- "This call may be recorded for quality assurance" recordings are clearly never listened to.
Having great customer service or support isn't relegated to those business just offering tangible products that ship to the customer in a timely and prompt manner. Service applies just as much, maybe even more so, to those offering services. How ironic that those offering a service, can and do suck at customer service?
I've switched services too many times to count based on service alone. If I was able to get a better price, that was a bonus. But if you treat me like a number, talk to me in a condescending tone, scold me because you don't appreciate why I am upset -- I'm gone. I do not hesitate to take my hard earned dollars elsewhere.
On a daily basis I have the "pleasure" of communicating with large and small brands alike. Either directly or through their websites and found that many have sucky service -- but for different reasons. Bigger companies are just that -- too big. The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing and the service reps are uninformed and clearly don't have the personality or demeanor to deal with customers caught in the middle.
Smaller companies do not realize how excelling at customer service can be what separates them from all their perceived competitors. They don't have the time or the funds (or the desire because it is a lot of hard work and attention to detail) to manage customer service properly. In many cases they do the best they can -- which just isn't good enough. Great customer service can be an equalizer for the little guys against the "big guys" whose deep pockets are unable to buy a satisfactory customer service experience.
Larger companies may have captive audiences where the customer has no other choice. Therefore they have no incentive to compete for customer satisfaction. When the "fit hits the shan" and you threaten to cancel they send you to the Customer Retention department. The fact these departments are so prevalent -- most based on price alone not quality of service -- speaks for itself.
- If you have to rely on a Customer Retention department your business model is not based on solid customer service principles. Just a revolving door based on volume.
- If you were the best in your market, offered the terrific service to your customers with a price that is competitive -- there would be no need for such a department.
How to Tell if Your Customer Service Sucks
- You get around to replying to e-mails when you get to it. You make no differentiation between how you e-mail a potential customer versus your son-in-law. In business, business email etiquette matters. Formality and professionalism goes hand-in-hand with trust and legitimacy. Every person using your company e-mail address better well excel at communication with the written word, using proper sentence structure and grammar. Nothing less will do. Informal e-mail communications reflect a lack of seriousness and typically are aligned with service that sucks.
- You don't appear to be trustworthy. You can blather on about how great you and your product or service is. You can list all your accreditations and awards. If that isn't backed by the most standard and customary basics -- you appear to be a scam. This includes a website that is all https:, an about page that is generic and lean on details, policy transparency (all that minuscule fine print doesn't count), easy to find contact forms/info, a code of ethics and privacy statements.
- You offer surveys after each customer interaction and then do not act on that input. Or, you don't ask how you did because you don't care. Either way your service probably sucks because you are not using the information available to you to be the best you can be. Each and every one of us can always improve. This means being open to bad reviews or disappointing input to make your company the best it can be.
- You do not return calls when a message is left or call on time when a customer is told to expect a call. If a customer is expecting to hear from you, they'd better darn well hear from you! If a voicemail is left for you; return the call promptly. If you are unable to make a promised call -- call to say so.
- You assume price is all it's about. The race to the bottom with the least expensive price doesn't make you the company folks want to do business with. In my experience the folks buying on price alone aren't those worth catering to anyway. So don't bother and look to offer value instead. Work on offering a price that allows you to provide the service you know customers will need, want and appreciate. Folks will pay more for great service.
Don't Have Customer Service that Sucks
How exactly do you do that? By putting the customer first -- regardless and always. You make a mistake -- you fix it times ten. You put your customer hat on and do what is necessary to make sure your customers get more than they expect. You put the personnel, policies and practices in place to make that happen. Period.
A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.
~ Mahatma Gandhi
Read that again -- and live by those words!
In today's arena excelling at customer service is a rarity. This fact makes customers less tolerable of ongoing issues and inconveniences or the rogue customer service agent that clearly should have never been hired. On the flip side when you offer extreme customer service, you stand out -- big time!
That's what I call opportunity.
At your service,