Customer dis-service. Seller beware!

By Jeff Bowman

I once had a wonderful experience with a customer service representative from a local store that I frequent.  The woman was courteous, smiling, had a sense of humour and seemed to genuinely care about my concerns. The result was that my concern was rectified to my complete satisfaction, in very short order and I left with a much better impression of the store, and here I am telling you about it.

The ideal customer service experience!

The only problem with the entire scenario above is the second word, “once”.  I can list a multitude of occasions where my experience has not been so pleasant, and I have left the store or hung up the phone angry, when my original sentiment was slightly displeased.

There is no question in my mind that the ability to communicate globally and online has led to a reversal in the code of customer service conduct, which was so heavily emphasized  in the 80’s.  It makes a huge difference when you can look someone in the eye and discuss your problems.   There is empathy and a shared concern for keeping a customer satisfied. In the 80’s, the competition for your business was fierce, and therefore customer satisfaction ratings were a critical statistic. Employees were well aware how important it was to keep the customer coming back because they had a vested interest, their jobs.

Today, we have online complaint systems and customer service departments that may not even be in the same town or country. What is their vested interest in ensuring your complete satisfaction? Sure, “this call will be monitored….” But that doesn’t tell you if I will ever use your service again, or it I will tell all my friends about the unique experience I had. Try calling your local television service provider or government office, and tell me that you are not angered by the myriad of button pushing and extension dialing you must negotiate your way through before you get transferred or put on hold. How many times must you enter your phone number or account number, only to be asked to verbally recite it again when a live voice greets you?

The age of service will return.  It is a cycle.  After each economic downturn, it comes back with a vengeance, only to be reduced over time to facilitate technology and cost savings. Well, the rubber has now hit the road, as consumers are turning the tables on businesses using the same technology they use to cut costs and service levels. Customers are bringing their complaints to the web! Facebook, YouTube and the like are now rife with upset customers pulling no punches and naming names.

This will get interesting over the next several months as the economy improves and businesses start to utilize social media more and more as a customer service tool.  They need to keep in mind, that the very tools that they will be relying on to create open dialogues with their customers could be used against them if the other areas of customer support are not up to snuff. No longer buyer beware, it is now seller beware!

I’d like to hear your customer dis-service experiences.

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Filed under Customer Service, Jeff Bowman

2 responses to “Customer dis-service. Seller beware!

  1. My mussels were off in a restaurant. It’s a restaurant I frequent, even now. Which is why this particular day was so odd.When the waitress saw I wasn’t eating my dish, she asked why. I told her I’m sorry; but my muscles taste off. She apologized. So far, so good. But then the manager came over and lectured me how it was impossible for the muscles to be off. Try one, I suggested, trying to be helpful (I am a regular after all). I was treated poorly after that. I still eat there, but now I warn people away from the muscles and tell them to avoid the manager. Hardly a ringing endorsement and I am sure I can no longer be counted as a customer advocate.

  2. It seems that the phrase customer service has become nothing more than a cliché used by many organizations without any practical definition of what it really means. I see it on posters, banners, websites; in fact, almost everywhere that I’m kept standing in line (in “bricks & mortar” establishments and online) waiting for service. The irony is that organizations spend a lot of time, effort and money trying to attract new customers and then provide poor customer service to existing customers. It would be more efficient to provide real customer service to existing customers, build a larger customer base through customer retention and allow the positive word-of-mouth messages to augment efforts to attract new customers.

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