You are, as is every business, in the customer service game.
You aim to please your customers, because you know that’s what brings in the dollars to keep the lights on and the staff fed. If you run a successful, profitable business, you will also know that this is a result of the quality of work that you do as well as the way you relate to customers.
And you probably also try to keep abreast of trends in management, and look for examples that you can learn from: everything from “Good to Great,” to “Freakonomics,” the several ongoing investigations into human social interaction by Malcolm Gladwell, and an endlessly replenished selection of tomes by entrepreneurs looking to impart their wisdom (and, as often as not, satisfy their egos).
There’s good and bad in all, but you probably also learn at least as much from your own interactions as a customer as you do from the other side of the counter. Every time you walk into the bakery, you scan the selection, and study staff comportment. When you go to the grocery or big-box store, you probably see those “out of stock” tags and wince.
The best, and worst, are out there for your everyday study.
So my question is this: Can you learn about customer service from your Internet/wireless/cable provider?
I say, without equivocation, “Yes!” But not because of what they do right, but for what they do wrong.
So, based on my own experience with such providers, here’s what not to do:
Do not pass customers with a problem from one person to the next. Unless you have to deploy a technical expert to solve a problem, or in that rarest of all occasions, the customer insists on speaking to the owner, the front-line person should have the authority to solve a customer issue.
Do not treat prospects better than customers. Special offers must be extended to all customers, or risk alienating those folks who keep you profitable today in a bid to find customers for tomorrow.
Do not, ever, take your customers for granted. They do not have to do business with you, even if you are the only supplier in town. Treat them badly enough and they will go to the next town for what they need. They might even stop buying things altogether.
Do not hold onto credits. This one has been regularly stated as an issue in the industry, but my current wireless (and former home phone, cable, and Internet provider) has to take the cake. A credit left after cancelling these services in February has still to be paid as of this writing.
Do not treat small dollar amounts as insignificant. See above on this one. The sum in question is $22.80, hardly princely I know, but it’s my $22.80, and when, after nearly an hour on the line telling them to cut me a cheque – after five months of waiting while monthly statements declaring the credit rolled in (and other similar calls in the interim I should add) – I was told by a “customer service” person they would “see what they could do.” Well, you can guess my reaction.
I’m sure you, as a successful reader of this magazine, don’t often find yourself or your business falling into any of these patterns. But if you do, just remember that the last thing you want to do is emulate the worst examples of customer service experiences.
You can do better. It’s practically impossible to do worse.
—Andrew Ross, Publisher and Editor
firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: Andrew Ross (@JobberNews)
UPDATE: AS OF THE ONLINE POSTING OF THIS ON AUGUST 14, 2013, A CHEQUE FOR THE CREDIT FROM THE SERVICE PROVIDER HAD YET TO BE RECEIVED. THE CREDIT, HOWEVER, HAS DISAPPEARED FROM THE ACCOUNT. PERHAPS THE CHEQUE IS IN THE MAIL?
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