It is November. Half term is over, the clocks have gone back, Halloween pumpkins are in the bin and people are starting to mention Christmas (sorry!). It is a serious time of year, in business most people are focusing on what they want to achieve by the year end and starting to put reminders in their 2017 diaries. Some are regretting that there is insufficient time left to take the actions they need to hit 2016 targets. The year may seem to be slipping away, not helped as the nights lengthen and we go to work in the dark and come home in the dark. However, there should always be time to tackle important issues.
Last month I wrote about businesses processes: analysing them, recording them and following them consistently. I suggested that one of these was your customer care processes. Since then I have received some dreadful customer service and thought I would dwell on what I mean when I speak of stunning customer service. And of course, this applies whether you are in private enterprise or the public sector; service provision or products; work business to business or business to consumer.
There are six points at which your customer touches you:
- The sales process
- The buying decision
- Receiving the product or service
- Resolving any issues
- Reflecting on your product or service
- Deciding to use you again
It seems to me many businesses focus on the first three and ignore the final three.
The Sales Process and the Buying Process
In many ways, you oversee this. You have been in business long enough to collect data about what potential customers want and tailor your process to give them the information upon which they can decide to trade with you. However, do you know why they choose you rather than someone else? It can be worthwhile finding out because it is not always the obvious and it certainly is not all about price. Remember good work is always good value.
Receiving the product or service
This is where all the emphasis is at present. Appropriate packaging, good packing materials, personalised delivery cards, names of those who have produced the items, good paperwork; a series of texts confirming delivery dates and times etc. etc. Like most others you are probably looking out for interesting twists on how you can cement the client relationship in this phase and you probably collect data afterwards and watch the competition’s good ideas. Someone else’s good idea rapidly becomes your sector’s norm. Stay ahead do not get behind. Empower everyone concerned in these processes to come up with good ideas for improvement.
Resolving any issues
This is where potentially things go wrong. Why?
- People learn in very different ways and because of this may not find it easy to access your product or service because of the way the instructions are framed.
- What you delivered is not what they expected
- Something arrived incomplete or damaged
Now let’s be honest no organisation is perfect and as humans we make mistakes. No one is unreasonable about these things provided the person owns up and apologises as if they mean it. One of my wise mentors always said when confronted with a consumer complaint expose your belly like a dog and invite them to kick where they will – they won’t!
We start complaining about any outfit’s customer service when their representative meets our problem (which is usually not a complaint at that stage) without empathy or worse with aggression. A complaint arises because someone starts to behave as if this is a confrontation. Respect for the customer seems to go out of the window, especially respect for their time.
In the last three weeks, I have been in contact with Customer Care teams in six different businesses and had these experiences
- A telephone call in which I hung on for a total of 45 minutes going through a lengthy automatic switchboard and three people before I reached the right one to solve the problem – each time giving my name, address and order number – all the while being told how important my call was (did I feel that? Hardly)
- I made two phone calls about an overdue order each time being promised a call back and not getting it. Later they eventually agreed there was a systems glitch with my order and that it had never been placed. I had to wring the information out of them and never received an apology.
- I phoned the local outlet to ask for assistance and was referred to a manager. He denied that the product with which I was experiencing problems existed (despite me referencing the page on which it featured in the current catalogue) and then hung up on me! (Yes really)
- I received a phone call organising a delivery in which something I was previously promised was dismissed with “He should never have said that”. They may never be undersold……
- “I am so sorry about this but the system will not let me do that “. Change the system!
- I emailed the MD of a national business about poor customer care and three weeks later have received no reply – it seems my opinion of his business does not matter. How much damage will I cause to their reputation?
None of these incidents improved my health and temper and none convinced me to trade with the organisations again. All of them are pestering me with automatic emails trying to tempt me to make repeat buys. Their poor customer service means I will not reflect well on them, will not trade with them again and I will name names to my friends.
None of this is the stunning customer service I want you to offer.
What does stunning customer service look like?
Always under promise and overdeliver. Do what your customer expects, then surpass it!
I cannot tell you how but here are four examples
- Three months after I tried to purchase an out of stock blouse someone rang me to say it had come in (right size and colour) and would I still like it to match the jacket I did purchase.
- Having waited 45 minutes in store to collect something (of very small value) I was given a fifty per cent discount for my inconvenience – I would never have asked.
- Someone doing some work in my home hoovered and dusted at the end of the job because without that “it is not finished”.
- As a wheelchair user, I could not access the spa in my hotel (as promised when I booked the break) and within 30 minutes a therapist had come to my room to do the treatments and brought me a luscious goody bag.
Stunning customer care is putting yourself into the shoes of the consumer and always setting out to impress them.
Stunning customer care is recognising a problem will get worse unless you take control and see it as an opportunity.
Stunning customer care is empowering your frontline people who deal with the situation to make decisions about how to enhance your reputation.
Your people might not know what stunning customer care looks like so choose somewhere that does it the way you want it done and take your people there to experience it. It might be a different sort of business, a different size of business but if they do it correctly translate the feelings they create in customers into your market sector.
None of this is original. We know good customer care is “do as you would be done by” so why does it go wrong? My diagnosis is that in the main employees do not care about the customer if their manager rules by fear and does not seem to care for them. Make your people feel valued and they will value those with whom they deal. And remember it took much time and effort to secure this customer but once you lose their trust they will not trade with you again; there are no second chances.
If this has been interesting, please share it. If you are thinking of working with a mentor, please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.