Customer Service is King
In today’s world of social media and 24/7 communication, bad customer service stories get around all too easily and then they spread like wildfire. I’m not sure enough businesses realize that customer service extends beyond prompt shipping and receipt of intact, as-ordered products. Good customer service is about the total experience: from the minute I step into your store (or office, retail front, website, etc.) until I’ve come home with my purchases (or service has been rendered). The older I get, the less tolerant I am of shoddy customer service. I really do appreciate being treated like a human being, and it is surprising the effect one bad experience can have on your entire view of a business.
I keep seeing some of the same mistakes made by businesses–both large and small–and here is some advice that would make me, as a customer, feel good about purchasing from you:
- Transparency is underrated. If there is a problem, please be upfront about it. If a code is broken, your Facebook app doesn’t work, or you’ve oversold a product, acknowledge it. Acknowledge the mistake from the beginning rather than attempting to cover it up. If there is an ongoing problem, consider regular status updates and spend more time providing real information than promises on when something might be fixed if there really isn’t a solid ETA. You would be surprised at how far the mere act of acknowledgement will go–especially with big businesses that cannot always react as quickly and fluidly as customers would like.
- Privacy is extremely important. Keep customers’ personal identifiable information private–it’s personal, and customers are entrusting you with their data and information for a particular purpose.
- Blaming customers is never the right path. Sometimes customers can be wrong, but in reality, going on a public form, whether it’s a person’s blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc. is not making the company look good. Part of the costs of doing business is dealing with bad customers, sometimes cutting them loose because they become too expensive to keep, but also recognizing that for the few bad customers (like the ones who report missing items that weren’t or always do questionable returns), there are many more that are good and honest.
- Accept bad reviews with grace. Not everyone is going to love your product/service/business. If you truly have a good business and feel like you’re doing all the right things, it will show. Just because one person has a poor experience with your product/service doesn’t mean it will be true of others. However, if you start harassing people who give you negative reviews, you might find the backlash is far worse than one bad write-up. After hearing from readers who posted negative reviews on various retailers’ websites and not having them posted (but their positive reviews went through just fine), I became much, much more jaded about the weight and value of reviews on retailer websites.
- Don’t be afraid to apologize. Sometimes a forthright, on-time apology is all that is needed or can greatly mollify frustrated customers until something is resolved. Just don’t abuse it–you can’t keep making the same mistakes and expect an apology to suffice.
We often regale friends and family members with stories of poor customer service, while too often forgetting to recognize incidents of excellent customer service. We should do both; we should warn others against businesses that practice poor or questionable ethics, fail to address customer concerns and problems adequately and efficiently, and ones that are simply rude or dismissive of customers, but we should remember to give praise to the businesses we love to shop at because of how we feel at the end of the experience.