Outstanding customer service is a feature common to world-class organizations. They recognize the importance of identifying and meeting customer needs, resolving issues, and reaping the other benefits of customer contact in areas like identifying new products and services.
They also recognize good customer service does not happen by accident.
This was brought to mind by some recent occurrences in dealing with businesses. I may be more sensitive to customer service issues since we help our clients in this area, but three examples demonstrated the need and benefits of good service.
- Demonstrate you value your customers. I received a letter from the bank that holds our mortgage stating we did not have proof of the proper insurance for our property, and if we did not obtain it in the next 30 days we would be charged over $1,000. I had previously sent them the insurance policy purchased by our Home Owners Association for our building.
When you have called customer service, have you ever gotten a message stating “Due to unusual call volumes it may take longer than normal” to get help. Whenever I have called this bank over the years, I’ve always gotten this message. That means either I am extremely unlucky to always call when volumes are high, or this is their way of trying to excuse long waits but not do anything about them.
After waiting on hold for 30 minutes, I finally spoke to a customer service representative. She told me the address on the policy did not match the address on the mortgage. I pointed out the addresses did match and where she could find it (not the first time I have had to point out information on forms they could not find). She said she would have to check with “her team”, but they would not call back with an answer. I needed to call them back in two days.
When I called back and spent another 20 minutes on hold (unusually long wait times again), I was told nothing had been done, but she really couldn’t check. It seems they changed computer systems over the weekend and customer records were not available yet. I was told I could not speak to her supervisor (“He is busy now.”), but she would file a complaint on my behalf.
Later that day I got a letter from the bank stating the issue had been resolved. Having that information would have saved a great deal of time and aggravation. I have yet to hear any feedback about the complaint she claimed she filed.
Later in the week I received a letter from the bank. It was a form letter containing an offer to refinance my loan and get a discount on closing costs. It stated it was a limited time offer and gave the date on which the offer would expire. The date was 11 days before I got the letter. It’s a good thing I wasn’t interested.
Does your organization demonstrate it values your customers’ time and business? How do you contact them to resolve their concerns? Do you try to excuse long wait times and poor service or work to correct these issues? Do you demonstrate you value your customers with more than just words?
As a result of this and other experiences with this bank I have absolutely no customer loyalty to them, nor would I ever recommend them to others. You can begin building customer satisfaction by meeting their needs, but more than that is necessary. The next example demonstrated this factor.
- Provide extra attention to their specific needs. My wife and I recently visited my mother and her husband and went to dinner. She has significant vision and hearing issues and needs some extra attention. Our waiter recognized this, and without our needing to ask, went out of his way to meet her needs. His level of service and his courtesy far exceeded our expectations. As a result, our visit to the restaurant was very enjoyable, and we will certainly return next time we are there.
He not only met our basic needs of taking our orders and serving our dinners, he went beyond to exceed our expectations. He built customer satisfaction and loyalty with his efforts. Thanks, Lane! You did a great job.
What would your customers tell us about your service? Will they be able to give examples of how you exceeded their expectations?
- Do not be condescending to your customers. We are going to replace a large window in our home, and my wife was calling to arrange for estimates. One of the companies she called got our address and information, then asked her, “What is your husband’s name?” (She hadn’t said she was married), and “Will he be there when we come?”
The message they sent was clear: We do not think you can understand this yourself and will need your husband to be there and make decisions. I am not sure why she didn’t hang up on them, but they did not show up for their appointment anyway. I do not need to tell you we will not call them back for anything.
What messages to you send to your customers? Do you show them respect? Do you appear dismissive due to their gender, age, or other circumstances? While this was our first (and last) contact with this company, do instances like this occur in your organization?
These three examples of good and bad customer service occurred in the last couple of weeks. They sent clear messages about the companies and organizations involved. What kind of messages does your organization send to customers and does it help build your business?
In a future blog, we will offer some ideas on how to improve customer service. In the meantime, contact us if you would like to discuss how you interact with customers. If you have examples of good or bad customer service you would like to share, send us an email.