What customer service?

Customer service is so important to retain customers and attract new ones. Yet, while many companies espouse customer service, few really do it well, preferring to outsource to third parties in lower-cost countries or leveraging technology. Both are fine provided they leave customers with a good impression of the company.

The bad

Years ago, my the display of first notebook from a leading IT company had a blacked-out lower screen after only a fewmonths of use. Following a call, I was told to bring it in to the service centre to get it assessed. When I got there, I was told that it would take up to five business days to troubleshoot the problem, after which they would let me know the let me know the cause, and another two weeks are needed to get it fixed.

I pleaded with them that this was my only computer and needed to run my business. Three weeks of downtime was too long. The plea fell on deaf ears and I decided to forgo getting it repaired. Instead, I brought it home, plugged in a monitor and worked from that until I got my next notebook.

Needless to say, I was pretty upset with the reputable vendor, which had prided itself as an industry leader, and not bought another item from them until last month. And sad to say, that purchase brought back all the bad memories. The printer was ordered online with a two-business day delivery promise. Three days later and there was no sight nor sound of the printer. A call revealed that they tried calling us ONCE to tell about stock unavailability but the call wasn’t picked up. What truely got us riled up was that we had left our phone number and email address — there were multiple ways that they could have reached us. WhatsApp, SMS or email. No, they just called us once and left it at that.

What a letdown! It was only after persistent calling and talking to the supervisor of the customer hotline that the printer finally delivered.

As the saying goes, “once bitten, twice shy”. It is highly unlikely that I will buy any device from this vendor again.

The good

Thankfully, not every vendor reneges on its promise! After that harrowing notebook experience, I bought another from another vendor. When I called them after having some blurry screen issue, they came to my home the next day and replaced the screen on the spot.

I was so impressed that I bought several more for work and family in the following years. And this second vendor proved time and again that it’s not a one-off good customer service experience.

The iffy

Bad customer service is not exclusive to IT vendors. Banks are another group that have cut both ways. A classic example is requesting for annual fee waiver for credit cards. Some banks make it a breeze to process this with a few clicks on the automated hotline while others use chatbots. Yet there are those who make customers jump through hoops for such a simple transaction. Customers do not have all the time in the world to listen to automated messages and options before getting to the right means to request for a waiver.

Besides customer service, telcos, credit card issuers and even newspaper publishers are notorious for neglecting existing subscribers. All the perks go to new customers, which may be the reason why many people have chosen to hop from one vendor to another. Isn’t an existing customer of value to them?

The wishlist

Enough griping. Here’s a wish list for all vendors to consider:

  1. Value your customer. Don’t just say it or use it as a tagline. Live and show it. Don’t just focus on getting new customers when you can’t keep the existing ones. An unhappy customer may help you lose potential business.
  2. Time is precious. While your time is precious, so are your customers. Don’t make it difficult for them to get some decent customer service. Having to listen to one automated message after another wastes lots of time. Review your processes and make it simple. And one of the most irritating lines is “All our operators are currently unavailable. Please hold and we’ll get back to you shortly.” Makes one wonder how many operators you really have. All can be just one person or perhaps two. Who knows?
  3. Review call centre processes. I feel for the poor call centre operator in a third world country who has to attend to all the gripes. Intead of giving them a standard script, give them more slack in making decisions or escalating. It feels like they are just holding and hoping that the caller will finally calm down and hang up.
  4. Stop the merry-go-round. Another peeve is the constant passing of a call from one department to another. It’s such a pain having to explain the same situation over and over again. Is the aim to wear the caller out? If not, practise single point of service.
  5. Don’t redirect to other platforms. When a customer calls or emails, handle that request or solve the problem using that platform. Don’t ask a caller to go to the website when your agent can help by accessing the site there and then to settle the request.
  6. Keep it simple. Some requests don’t require complicated answers. When my car’s front lamp blew, I called the service centre and was told to book an appointment later in the week. What’s worse is that they need to check the problem, which will take at least half a day. I drove to another workshop and got the bulb replaced in under a minute. The car distributor could have kept things simple but instead chose a cumbersome process, totalling neglecting the fact that the customer needs the bulb changed quickly.

All organisations should recognise that customer service should not be an after-thought but an important part of doing business.

Good customer service will go a long way towards growing the business.

A happy customer is a good champion for your business.

Photo: Moose Photos from Pexels

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