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Making bad customer service good

Submitted by on Tuesday, 20 July 2010

This post is for all the horrid customer service capability I run into when I call any place, any place at all it seems, with a complaint or query. Bad customer service has such a long tail that it’s just not acceptable anymore (if indeed it ever was).

These days, it’s so simple for angry customers to tell the whole world of a yucky vendor experience, and the results can be devastating: when the complaint shows up online – which it always does – it might make the difference between someone choosing you or choosing another vendor.

THE COST OF LOSING A CUSTOMER

What, exactly, is the cost of losing a customer? Do you know what it costs you to replace a lost customer, or manage the bad press from a viral complaint?

Take care of your customers. While it might be impossible to always run a perfect business, it’s certainly easy to give great customer service. In fact, it should be mandatory.

I’m going to share some horrific customer service issues I’ve had the past weeks, with some easy-t0-implement strategies to turn them around and make your angry customers into fans. While some of these examples involve technology, let’s not forget that we mortals create the technology and program it. And can change it.

1. CLERK: “I can’t give you the number of the supervisor, but I can give you her address so you can write in your complaint.”

Once you take the leap to place a call with a complaint, how annoyed are you already as you’re kept on hold for 11 minutes? And when the person finally gets on and says she can’t help you — and won’t/can’t pass you on to her supervisor? You might have started out being a 6 annoyed, and by the time you’re done you’re a 10 enraged. All she has to do is say:

“Wow. You sound so annoyed. I’m sorry that something we’ve done is making you this unhappy. Let me attempt to get my supervisor so you can speak directly to her. Because we’re not allowed to give you their number, you might want to hold on while I dial it and put you through. Sorry you have to go through this, but I bet between the two of us we can work with the system as it is, and still help you.”

2. VOICE MAIL: “Leave a message and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours.”

No you won’t. You NEVER get back to me. It’s a way of getting rid of me – but by the time I hear this I’m so mad I just find another vendor, or write a blog post about you because I hate you.

Instead, either 1. GET BACK WITHIN 24 HOURS, or 2. do NOT leave that message, or 3. say, “We are so sorry we can’t be there for you at the moment. Unfortunately, we are really busy now. But if you call back between 2-4 on Wednesday, it will be easier for us to pick up. Or, here is a link to a live person – and her name – and a promise that she’ll be back to you asap.’ AND YOU MUST MAKE SURE THIS PERSON RETURNS THE CALL.

3. VOICE MAIL: “Choose from the following: technical support, new service, upgrade service, pay your bill…”

I never, ever have a problem that’s so easily resolved that one of the choices applies. With all of the technology available, can’t there be an option that says,

“Please state your problem and we’ll get you over to the right customer service rep in the right department who will take care of you.”

4. To use the company directory, make SURE that everyone’s name is listed!

How many times has a colleague/client/prospect said, “Oh right. My name isn’t on the list.” or “That list never has the right names on it.” FIX IT. I recently heard the best, best stupidest excuse for not finding a name on a company directory. After calling back and pressing the ‘sales’ button (which always gets answered… folks always care about the potential customers far more than the actual customers): “We list people by their first names only.”  And, WHY do you tell me to plug in the person’s LAST name??? Ummmm… no reason. In other words, it’s absolutely impossible to find anyone. CHANGE YOUR MESSAGE TO TELL ME TO DIAL BY FIRST NAME.

5. When a customer is angry, do NOT tell this person you cannot fix their problem. I.e.: ‘Unfortunately, at this time we are unable to…”

Instead, say, “I hear you are very annoyed. Normally, we aren’t able to help fix this for you, but if you hold on a moment, I can call in my supervisor and we can see how to best help you.” Imagine if you really cared about giving good service to all of your customers. Imagine trying to keep your customers happy.

GOOD SERVICE

I’ve had two incidents of GREAT customer service recently. One IBM receptionist who had to call a different state to find the person I wanted, was so sorry to have me wait while she did this, and asked me if I wanted to hear a joke while we waited so I would at least have some fun! How clever.

The other was a cold call I made to a new prospect company. An apparently very junior, very new person answered. He really didn’t know what to do, but he said, “I want to make sure I help you. Can you hang on with me? I’m new. Sorry.’ Then he asked me a couple of questions and wrote the data down, got my email address, guessed that 2 people might be able to help me,  found their email addresses, and had me stay on the phone while I made sure I received the emails he sent to all three of us, introducing us to each other, using the details I provided. Wow.

So it’s possible to show clients, vendors – anyone, really – that you’re professional and you care. In this day and age, your choices are professional or unprofessional. There are a lot of choices of vendors out there. Make sure you’re one of the good guys.

sd

For those wishing to study with me, I run corporate Buying Facilitation™ programs. I’m offering a unique public program in Austin, September 15-17 & Boston, September 20-22.

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