Service with a Snarl

Having just experienced a truly awful customer service experience (not traumatic or damaging and I won’t bore you with it) I was prompted to write this post. What was awful about it is that it exposed just how customer hostile this particular supermarket chain’s processes are.

The customer is always right

Even when they’re not. This has been done to death. You never win an argument with a customer. If you win the argument you’re likely to lose the customer. Of course there are times when you might actively seek to end a relationship with a customer, but there are subtle ways to do it and wantonly destructive customer service is not one of them.

Never ask a customer to do something you wouldn’t do yourself

Ask yourself if your company’s customer service polices are designed for the organisation’s convenience, not the customer’s. Are they designed to stave off enquiries rather than make customers happy?

The only timeframe that counts is the customer’s

Your internal metrics might be based on things like average time to respond (not necessarily solve) to customer queries. That’s important, but it’s everything. If you’re doing things in the background like tracing a late delivery for a customer, keeping them in the loop makes sense – at least they don’t feel ignored, but until they have the product in their hand there is still a problem in ther mind.

The only outcome that matters is that the customer is satisfied

Customers make decisions about whether to recommend a company and whether to do repeat business with them based on the level of service they receive. If anything goes wrong that counts even more. Handling complaints quickly and to the customer’s satisfaction should be your primary aim. You can do as many lifetime value and acquisition cost calculations as you like, there’s no way to know just how much damage an unhappy customer can cause you.

Customer Service is Marketing

In many companies, the customer services department is still seen purely as a cost centre, where the aim is to get the customer out of your hair, as quickly as possible. If that sounds like your company, and you’re in the marketing department you need to take control of the situation and demand more involvement. Every touchpoint with a customer is an opportunity to strengthen or weaken the relationship. Do you even know what your CS frontline staff are saying to your hard-won customers? Marketers need to make sure that the whole customer experience is the best it can be.

Image credit: bthomso via Creative Commons on Flickr

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