Does Your Company Provide Good Customer Service?
Most of you would say “yes” to this question. But do you really know the level of customer service you're providing in the eyes of your customers? According to an article in a local newspaper by Gad Allen, faculty director of the Jerome Fisher Program of Management and Technology at the University of Pennsylvania, “statistics show that 80 percent of businesses think they provide superior customer service.” Most customers would disagree. In fact, Allen goes on to say that “when customers were asked about their experience with various companies and organizations, only 8 percent said they think the businesses they interact with offer superior customer service.”
Let me give you a real-life example. My wife purchased an item with a retail price of $23 from a national chain that she determined was defective after she brought it home. She had used an in-store coupon worth $5 to make the initial purchase making the net purchase $18. She returned it to the store in exchange for the same item. She was told that they would have to charge her the $5 difference between the full retail price and the discounted sale price she paid for the exchange. What?!?
They told her she had to have another discount coupon to get the lower price. You must be kidding. Talk about a flawed customer service policy. After arguing with the store manager, they agreed to an even exchange, same item for same item. Why put my wife, the customer, through this experience when it was totally not called for? Do what’s right (and in this case logical) in the eyes of the customer.
According to the Beyond Philosophy Blog, 96 percent of unhappy customers don't complain, however, 91 percent of those will simply leave and never come back. A dissatisfied customer will tell between nine to 15 people about their experience. Around 13 percent of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people. “On average, happy customers tell nine people about their experiences with a company,” Ken Markidan wrote.
Try being a secret shopper with your company, using a name and email address that won’t be recognized. Make a purchase then try to return it for a refund and/or an exchange. Experience what your customers experience every day. If you have a good experience and are satisfied with the level of service you received, your customers should be happy too. This is an ongoing process that should be tested frequently.
Take ownership of customer service. Set an example to your employees every day. Have them treat the customer the way they would like to be treated when they make a purchase. The process should be hassle free. It's common for a customer who has an issue to build up a certain amount of anxiety anticipating a problem when they call for customer service. This is the perfect time to put the customer at ease. Make them feel good about calling and assure them that you will take care of their needs. This is your opportunity to turn a negative experience into a positive one.
When you have a less-than-satisfactory customer service experience, what do you do? You tell your friends and post on social media. With the growth of the internet, it's easy and quick to make your feelings known publicly.
The mystery of this all is that it's so easy to provide excellent customer service. Why don’t more companies practice what they preach? Empower your people. Give them ownership by giving them enough latitude to make a problem right in the eyes of the customer. It’s no time for strict rules and regulations. It’s time for flexibility, understanding and compassion for the customer. Make it a real win-win.
The guru of customer service was Stanley J. Fenvessy. He was a friend and mentor. Stanley published a book in 1988 that became the industry bible called, “Fenvessy on Fulfillment.” This book is still relevant today when it comes to taking care of the customer. Stanley had two rules to follow: Rule No. 1: “The customer is always right.” Rule No. 2: “Re-read rule No. 1.”
It’s not that difficult to provide excellent customer service. Start by having a real person answer the phone on as few rings as possible. Avoid a menu of prompts on the phone. Don’t transfer the customer to different departments. Handle the complaint on the first call. Listen to the customer. Understand the resolution that's satisfactory to them. And once again, empower your customer service representatives to resolve the issue. Don’t handcuff them with a bunch of rules and regulations. If the customer is happy, they will return, making it a win for the company, too.
Stephen R. Lett is founder and chairman of Lett Direct, Inc., a catalog consulting firm specializing in digital marketing, circulation planning, forecasting and analysis since 1995. Lett spent the first 25 years of his career with leading catalog companies, both business-to-business and consumer. He's the author of a book, "Strategic Catalog Marketing." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Steve Lett graduated from Indiana University in 1970 and immediately began his 50-year career in Direct Marketing; mainly catalogs.
Steve spent the first 25 years of his career in executive level positions at both consumer and business-to-business companies. The next 25 years have been with Lett Direct, Inc., the company Steve founded in early 1995. Lett Direct, Inc., is a catalog and internet consulting firm specializing in circulation planning, plan execution, analysis and digital marketing (Google Premier Partner).
Steve has served on the Ethics Committee of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and on a number of company boards, both public and private. He served on the Board of the ACMA. He has been the subject of two Harvard Business School case studies. He is the author of a book, Strategic Catalog Marketing. Steve is a past Chairman of both the Catalog Council and Business Mail Council of the DMA. He spent a few years teaching Direct Marketing at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.
You can contact Steve at email@example.com.