I like my money right where I can see it: hanging in my closet. -- Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City

25 May 2009

Service with a Smile??-Make ME Happy!

“Give the lady what she wants!” Marshall Fields
I think we all have stories of waiting endlessly on hold for someone to give us an answer to a question about our phone service, airline reservation, credit card bill, misplaced order...or standing in line only to have the person waiting on us not know what the price was or where to find what we want, or worse yet not caring... I simply don't get it!
There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
- Sam Walton
In the current economic climate how much sense does it make to do your job poorly? Can you tell I have had some customer service issues of late! As a Marketing Professional the first rule I play by is that the customer is ALWAYS right-even if they are Wrong!
Nothing but nothing keeps me coming back to a store, a service or a contractor than how I am treated by their representatives. I believe you don't get second chances with any customer and the impression you leave reflects back on the entire organization or company.
In the past two weeks I have dealt with truly BAD customer service on all levels of the consumer chain-a credit card company that was rude, a phone service provider that did not have a clue how to fix an issue and declared there was nothing to be done, a major retailer with not one but two on-floor sales people that refused to take the extra step to help, a contractor who could not be bothered to call me back, a contractor whose office representative made no effort to work with my schedule to set an appointment, an auto repair shop that did a bad job and would not take responsibility...trust me, the list goes on! Why don't people care?? Now more than ever Customer Service is the single most important marketing tool any company can have.
The customer is why you go to work. If they go away, you do, too.

David Haverford
As consumers we have a choice of where to spend our money and who we hire to do work for us. Somewhere somehow our standards for service have been severely lowered and we almost anticipate that we are going to be treated poorly or receive no right answers-that doesn't work for me! Perhaps because of the business I am in I expect to be treated the way I treat my clients-if they are not happy then I cannot pay my mortgage--it is really simple!
Winning customers, and more importantly keeping customers, has never been so critical and that is why when I walk through a Department store and see merchandise strewn all over and cannot find a sales person who knows even where the shoe department I walk out. No wonder stores are shutting their doors-they did it all wrong!
When it comes to customer service the rule I live by is if you don't like the answer you are getting call back and find someone who will give you the right answer! Go talk to someone else! It shouldn't be that way, however, every representative should know the right answer, every representative should go the extra step and every representative should care!!
On a recent trip to purchase a new Television(get ready for the digital age!) I first went on line to search for what I was looking for and check to see if the location near me had them in stock. I went over on a mid-week night, not too busy to say the least in the store, and first attempted to return a gift. The returns desk refused to take it back or give me a store credit because I did not have a slip-Strike One. Next I made my way to the Television department, no sign on the floor of the White TV I saw on line and no sales person volunteering to help me despite my wandering around for ten minutes through the same aisles-at this point I was testing to see how long it would be before anyone bothered to talk to me-Strike Two. When I finally did get waited on I was told with no further research beyond looking at the same shelf I had been looking at that they did not carry the television I saw on line, this despite their website telling me that store had stock-Strike Three!
Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.
Bill Gates
At this point this major retailer has a very unhappy customer in their midst, and more importantly a customer who knows how this truly should be done. I grew up in retailing and now I consult for small start up companies and the first thing I do is make sure their representatives are trained to help! It isn't expensive, it is a simple thing to do and it builds a business that has staying power---Five easy steps:
1. Be Nice and treat the customer in the same manner you want to be treated. CARE! about what you are doing and who you are helping-they sign your paycheck!
2. Know your stuff. Be sure you understand the product/service you represent. If you do not have the answer, go find the answer and get back to your customer quickly-not sometime next week!
3. Go the extra mile. Make an effort to do whatever it takes to help and satisfy the customer.
4. You cannot please everyone, but whatever issue your customer has be creative of about resolving it so they leave happy and they remember you tried.
5. ALWAYS be sure to ask what else you can do to help and leave the customer with a reason to come back.
Today ALL companies are small companies---the retail and service worlds are shrinking very quickly and getting and keeping customer loyalty I believe is the key to survival. One, just one, bad experience can send a customer away forever and more importantly in this age of social networking send them off to tell the planet about what happened.
The Happy Ending to my TV saga is a clue into how easy it is to build loyalty and build a good business. As I was walking out, car keys in hand, disgruntled expression on my face, I was approached and asked for the first time the correct a question-"Did I find everything I needed" GOTYA! "NO!," I declared, "I did NOT!" I explained that I came looking for something that their website said this store had and that I was told they did not carry and I explained that I attempted to return a gift and was turned away with no store credit. Turns out I was taking to the manager. He went to his computer, saw that the store had 6 in stock, went out back and brought me my television. He then walked me over to the service desk and saw to it that I got my store credit. He knew how to do it...but why didn't his staff? I will go back to that store, only if really necessary though, and that store representative saved their reputation for me.
Here are some Be Nice stories that have kept me loyal and will keep me coming back and demonstrate that this isn't brain surgery but simple, easy and effective---this is how to survive in a bad economy:
1. My movie service made an error on their website, when I called because I wasn't receiving something, they caught the error and gave me three free movies for my "trouble"-not that re watching Project Runway is critical to my life but they went an extra step and that makes me loyal to them
2. My local fun food shop did not have an ingredient I needed on their shelf. The trucks were just being unloaded and a "crew" member went out onto the truck and retrieved it for me-my first stop for groceries.
3. I saw a pair of slacks and jacket on line- I called the company to see if the colors worked, the representative went and found both pieces to check them for me. She then made suggestions of other pieces I might like that were on sale!
4. A HVAC contractor stopped at my house in the off chance that I would be home to check a problem I was having. He gets all the heat and a/c issues at Camp MP from now on!
5. A new auto body shop fixed the bad work from the old body shop at no charge and gave me his cost on another repair I needed to have done-That is where I go first for gas and repairs from now on
6. After being on hold and talking to all the wrong people for well over three hours at my phone/Internet provider I called back and spoke with someone who knew within two minutes that all I needed was a software patch and how to get it done for me. He even called me back to be sure it downloaded properly and that I was back on line.
7. An airline told me that despite sever weather forecasts if I wanted to change my airline ticket to avoid the weather, weather that would definitely cancel my original flight, I would have to pay $650. I did that so I did not get stuck and when I called from my warm destination and discovered that original flight had indeed been cancelled due to the Nor'easter the representative I spoke with refunded my money!
These folks "get it" and maybe if all companies showed the same respect for their customers the American economy might just have a shot again!