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Prioritize ?Good Customer Service or Your Competition Will Take Them

Is the customer always right?

Global Influencer

Global Influencer
Global Influencer

When you think of customer service (CS) you probably immediately think of your worst customer service experience and shudder. It’s funny because most of us rarely acknowledge good service yet always remember the turmoil we faced when CS is poorly managed.

My friend recently moved to a new city and while unpacking realized he had misplaced the power cords for his two Lazy Boy power massage recliners. When he went to a local dealer he was told they didn’t sell power cords. The salesman told my friend, ready to begin a pitched battle, that he could lend him two sets until he unpacked and found his own. What?

A week later, the same friend was grocery shopping with his wife and was packing bags into the trunk when his wife suggested they check out the rest of the stores in the mall. Collecting carts beside him, a grocery clerk overheard the two and offered to put all their groceries in the store cooler until they were done their shopping so nothing would melt. Seriously? Kelowna, BC is not a small town so friendliness wasn’t from some sort of small town philosophy. I think employees were seeing the vision of good management and customer service.

Helping staff see the vision sounds like trying to herd cats to me. However, in an age where many companies are feeling like CS is purely a nuisance others are making it the critical area to produce successful results. Granted, social media has made even the companies with poorly operated CS program sit up and take notice about how to do it better.

Air Transat, Canada’s third largest airline and winner of the 2012 Skytrax World’s Best Leisure Airline Award recently had a bad CS experience. After flying from Brussels and unable to land in Montreal, the plane landed in Ottawa in hopes the weather would clear in Montreal.

Passengers were not allowed off the plane and endured, no air-conditioning, little water, rationed food and no electricity for more than 6 hours. The 300 passengers became unruly and two actually called 911 complaining of people suffering suffocation. Police and ambulances brought water and diminished the problem. Air Transat blamed everyone except themselves and were left with 100’s of upset customers. The event enraged Canadian lawmakers pushing to improve Canada’s passenger bill of rights. Imagine being known as the airline that changed customer rights?

Canadian Tire, one of Canada’s largest retailers was in the news this week as well. An indigenous man was suspected of shoplifting and was physically removed from the store against his will. Canadian Tire dealt with the situation swiftly with an apology and fired the over zealous employee.

When an event between a customer and employee can be captured by mobile phones and spread virally the role of customer service/relations needs to be placed on a higher priority than in the past.

Employers must acknowledge that employees have sensitivities that may affect their interaction with customers. They must have more training in place than sitting a new employee at a computer and making them watch a 10 minute presentation on how to do their job with customer service being relegated to the last 30 seconds.

As the case of Canadian Tire illustrates, when social media points out bad behaviour it also has the responsibility to report the remedies. Unfortunately, it’s like the front-page news article of the man innocently arrested for being a pedophile with the retraction on page 12 the next day.

If I don’t get treated fairly by a company I will tell the world about it and if they fix the problem I will quickly tell the world the good news. Yeah, social media!

What can be done to make customer relations better for everyone? The thing that with social media as a reporting tool for everyone stories will continue to be on the news and people will be fired for treating the customer like a problem.

Shep Hyken, alternatively, claims that mobile phones revolutionized customer service. Hyken reminds us that YouTube has videos on everything and is a good place to figure out how to fix your broken merchandise yourself. It also allows crowdsourced reviews of people who have the product you have or are thinking of buying. You can review the good/bad CS or the benefits without leaving your home. Proactive businesses have already figured this out and have embraced online CS.

Hyken’s believes that customer service is simple, be honest and courteous with your customers and train staff appropriately.

Call center’s came about in the 1960’s, followed by 1-800 number in the ‘80’s and now people prefer to deal with CS online. There are many trends that are following our need for better and more appropriate CS responses.

Most people I talk to think that value and the buying experience are more important to them than price. I love shopping at the Apple store, I can check out new goodies, am greeted at the door no matter who busy they are and their staff is polite and knowledgeable.

Immediate response to problems is a big issue. Many companies have a 48-hour policy of answering CS queries. I think that’s a bad move. I had a problem with one of my Bose Wi-Fi speakers and they were on it in minutes. Even though the warranty had expired they gave me a voucher for FedEx to return the unit so they could expedite a replacement at no cost. I’ve had the opportunity to return merchandise but it was always a pain to find a box, get postage, etc. I ‘d rather do without and think the company sucked.

Helping the customer understand the product better is a great way to make sure they know all the bells and whistles so they will get the product right from the get-go. It’s proactive for sure but not as proactive as the companies are using the Internet of Things (IoT) to place Wi-Fi units in products like cars and refrigerators that can report to the factory how products are working so they can get ahead of the problem if needed.

Knowing your customer and catering to them will alleviate most CS issues.

Millennials like a different style of customer service. They like brands that will engage with them in the buying process whose values align with their own and continue to personally work with them after the buying process through newsletters, specials, etc.

One way to control customer relations is to offer self-serve. I get messed up at my local grocery when I try to use self-serve but in a recent study it showed self-serve took about the same time to manage as if you had waited in a short line. I guess it is empowering to be able to do it yourself.

Amazon has taken the whole need for human interaction out of customer service. Enter the Amazon Go store and you simply pick products from well-stocked and positioned shelves (they are put in a virtual cart) and walk out the door – no personal interaction. Your Amazon account is billed automatically and you will just stand there amazed how easy it was to shop.

A recent survey by American Express Service of over 1600 consumers showed that 63% of them said they felt their heart rate increase when they thought about receiving great customer service. For 53% of those tested, receiving great service triggered the same cerebral reactions as feeling loved.

The way we receive customer service is a learning curve for the retailer. The more crazy examples of bad customer service people hear about the more customers will wish and demand the best.

The general trend for customer service is as Hyken says, “be honest, courteous and train your staff” otherwise your competitor will find your customer after you lose them.

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