EmpoweringABC.com
The Building Blocks of Business and Personal Success

Posted on: 27 Jul 2010
Link: http://empoweringabc.com/2010/07/27/c-is-for-customer-service/

EmpoweringABC.com
The Building Blocks of Business and Personal Success

Posted on: 27 Jul 2010

C is for Customer Service

I’m sure we’ve all had good customer service experiences and bad customer service experiences.

A good one I’ve had:
I’ll admit it. I have a Playstation 3 because I wanted to play the music and rhythm game Rock Band 2 — even though I’m terrible at it and really don’t have much rhythm to speak of… at least I can pretend I have musical talent! Last December I bought a wireless guitar which had some connectivity problems, but this manufacturer’s support people had no trouble immediately issuing a replacement when it was deemed that my guitar was defective. Would I buy from this company again? Yes.

A bad one I’ve had:
About 9 years ago I bought a very nice, rather expensive, high end digital camera from a maker I will not mention. The thing had an electrical problem and would shut off in the middle of a shoot, saying the four AA batteries were dead even if they were fully charged. Calls to customer support resulted in worthless ‘help’ like “You should use our officially branded AA batteries and chargers.” After about a month of running in circles I eventually demanded to be put through to a manager who was able to give me a refund.  The experience was so frustrating that to this day I will not buy one of their cameras. Would I recommend one to a friend? No.

A poor customer service experience can quickly destroy future business potential with a customer that marketing efforts (and money) tried so hard to obtain in the first place.  Worse, it can destroy any possibility of that person’s friends becoming customers through word of mouth.

Online message boards and blogs have given consumers much more power when they complain about their bad experiences — and it’s usually the bad experiences that cause people to become very vocal. Unfortunately, the good experiences are often quietly remembered but not shared.

The problem with a common business approach

Customer facing roles — be they sales people or customer service representatives — are the face of your organization.

Sales people are the obvious money makers. They usually have pay incentives and businesses are willing to allocate resources to their training and development.

What about customer service people? They probably have training on how to handle difficult callers — “This call may be monitored for training purposes”.  Some companies give them sales scripts to read — “Mr. Ing, I’d like to tell you about our limited time offer…” — but they are often delivered half-heartedly, sounding artificial and robot-like.

Support people are usually tucked away, answering phones in the bowels of an organization. They are a cost center. They are looked at as an expense, and unfortunately they often don’t get the resources or training they deserve.  Worse, their career potential inside the organization is usually low… if they’re employees at all.

Yet customer service people are the critical face of your business when your customers care enough to contact you.  Their handling of a situation can sometimes mean the difference between creating a detractor or an advocate of your brand.

Empowering Customer Service

What goes around comes around.

I’d really like to see businesses take better care of their customer service people, because they deserve it and because it is one of the keys to providing better service to their end customers overall.  There are all sorts of ways you can put this into effect such as better compensation, providing training, advancement opportunities, reducing emphasis on certain “performance” metrics that are at odds with the customer’s viewpoint — but I won’t really go into detail here.

I’d also like to see more companies give their customer service people greater authority to resolve individual problems instead of going through scripts and scenarios, looking for typical FAQ resolutions as if the customer has the IQ of a peanut.  When someone picks up the phone to call customer support, my bet is that they are not looking for a song and dance — they just want their problem resolved quickly and in a competent manner.

The simple truth of the matter is:

1. When an employee has a stake in their company, they tend to care about their company and want to see it succeed.  This affects how they behave when they are representing their company.

2. When you are talking to someone on the phone, even if you can’t see their face, you can tell if they are in a good mood or a bad mood. You can also tell if that person wants to help you, or if they really don’t care.  Empathy goes both ways affecting the perceptions of each party.

3. When someone gets off the phone with customer service, they will have an opinion — not so much of the customer service representative, but of the company.  Depending on the conversation they had and the outcome, their image of that company will go up or it will go down.

PS – A lot of this also applies to e-mail support as well.  Nothing is more frustrating than getting a canned e-mail reply that begs the question, “Did you even read my e-mail?”

Addendum:  A few hours after I wrote this, I was out jogging and listening to the July 23, 2010 Harvard Business Review IdeaCast where they interviewed Matthew Dixon, who co-authored “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers.”  The article itself is a very good read and could be an eye opener for businesses on what they thought constitutes good customer service.
To me customer service people are a critical part of any organization and they should be treated as such. If you agree or you think I’m missing the bigger picture, please tell me by leaving a comment.
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This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 27th, 2010 at 1:59 pm and is filed under Business, English. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.