By Jim Mastin Sr
If you asked me the one task I hate more than any other, I would tell you it is having to call a cell phone company or a computer company to discuss a problem. You know the drill; dial their number, press 1 or 2 for which language you speak, then “listen to the following options carefully because they have recently changed”. Ever wonder why they are always changing their options?
“Please choose from the following 7 options”. Press one for…, Press 2 for… Press 3 for… and so on. Then you realize none of the seven say you can talk to a human being about your problem. But, don’t fret, because another option is to press 8 to “repeat the previous menu”. Nice!
Then you finally choose the closest one you think might work and you press the appropriate number. “If you know your account number, enter it now”, “Enter the last four digits of your Social Security number” , “Thank you, please hold for the next available agent”. Five minutes pass and the music has repeated 18 times, and then you hear, “All of our agents are busy assisting other customers”, “for faster service you can visit our website at Poor Company.com”.
More music and then, “Press one to repeat this menu”. And it all starts over again.
Yesterday my wife experienced a problem with a debit card at a department store. It wouldn’t take the pin number. When she came home and told me, I cringed and said I would call about it. It was an ING Direct card and we have a couple of accounts with them. I picked up the phone and dialed their customer service number. It rang twice and a voice answered and said, “This is Jay, how may I help you?” It took me a few seconds to react because I certainly wasn’t prepared for a real live human being to speak to me. At first I thought, “Wow, these recorders are using names now”. But it went silent waiting for me to speak. I introduced myself and explained the problem. He asked for the card number, pulled it up, explained how it happened, corrected it, all in less then 3 minutes.
I thought, if one large company can do that, why can’t they all? And, of course small companies too. The truth is, most companies start out with good customer service because they know it’s the right thing to do, but it doesn’t stay that way long. Let’s talk about the evolution of customer service.
You start a new company and you are desperate for customers, so you put your best foot forward. If you have a physical location, you make it as pleasant and accommodating as possible. You greet your customer personally with a warm welcome and a big smile. You offer help in any way they might need it. You want them to come back and be a repeat customer. You need them and you know it.
If you are a service or website company with no physical location, you depend completely on voice communication. So, again you are pleasant, making sure their needs are met and they are happy, After all, they are a customer and you need them.
Then the evolution process begins. Now the exact process will depend on the kind of business you have, but the motivators are similar.
1. You get so busy you forget to take good care of your valuable customer. You intend to get back to them, but you don’t.
2. You decide you need to hire someone to help you. You forget to train them for customer service. You give them “busy work” to do and they do customer service on the side. So, it suffers in quality.
3. You are growing, so you need to hire a couple more employees. But you think, I could hire one more employee and buy an answering system and save some money. Here we go with the “Press 1 for options” scenario.
4. The company grows to the point they can save a lot of money by outsourcing customer service to India or somewhere. Now, I have nothing against India, in fact my wife and I love India and send money every month to help feed 200 children that need food there. But, now the customer not only had to wade through many tedious steps to get to a live person, wait for 30 minutes, but now they can barely communicate because of the strong accents and sometimes poor connections.
5. So now, people hate you because of your poor customer service, so they start looking for another company. Many people have left mainstream computer companies and gone to Mac for that very reason. Good customer service.
OK, Jim, my company isn’t that big. I don’t outsource and all that. Yeah, but do you return calls? Do you make people wait for a long time to get issues resolved? Do your customers really feel like you appreciate them? Do you address their grievance immediately, or push it aside hoping it will go away? Do you always make your greetings warm and caring?
Here are a few interesting results of surveys made with customers.
1. How many bad service experiences does it take to lose a customer?
17% leave after one bad experience
Another 40% leave after two bad experiences
Another 28% leave after three bad experiences
You loose 85% in three poor customer service experiences
2. What are the top four things a customer wants from your company?
(1) A knowledgeable and available staff
(2) Friendly people
(3) Good value
There you have it – all things we should be doing anyway.
Someone once said, “You will never hit something you are not aiming at”.
Customer Service won’t happen by accident, it’s something you will have to do on purpose. Make it part of your mission statement. Make it part of your employee training. Teach it to the person that answers your phone.
When I began forming the business plan for our company, Http://PreferredContractor.com , I asked a lot of people looking for a contractor what they wanted. I compiled a list from their answers and it became the basis for our company. Now we have to make sure it doesn’t fall prey to THE EVOLUTION OF CUSTOMER SERVICE.