You would think that anyone who provides a product or service would understand the value of a satisfied customer.
Satisfied customers come back for more, they spread your name around with their friends and colleagues and talk about you in that bright eyed way a teenager talks about their first love. While it would be fantastic if this feeling of mutual admiration could last a lifetime, the reality is in the service and consulting business the average relationship between a customer and a client is somewhere between 5 and 7 years.
Take note that the time frame listed above is for a good relationship. Add in a couple of miscues and some lousy customer service and the relationship with your favorite customer could end tomorrow. While nearly every customer is willing to forgive a bump in the road or two, when they call or make contact to report their issue one had better make sure the person they contact doesn’t commit one of the 5 fatal don’ts of customer service.
1. Don’t let a robot handle the problem for too long
We all have been there, press 1 for language preference… The next thing you know you have been typing enough single digit numbers to make a long distance call and you still haven’t talked to a human. Customer service numbers should all take 3 entries or less to talk to a human. Your best customers should have a direct line to have their issues resolved and your best people should be taking these calls with the enthusiasm one would give their best friend. People like to hear the voice of another human, they want to know that real person in on the other end of that line who is listening and that he/she will work to resolve the issue.
2. Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep
I happen to work in the world of Asset Management (aka Maintenance and Reliability) training and consulting world and while our customer complaints are few and far between, when a customer calls they want their problem resolved now! One the big mistakes people sometimes make is over committing themselves in attempt to quickly resolve the complaint. Overcommitting in many cases only compounds the problem, you now have made a promise to have the customer’s problem completely resolved and if you fail to meet that commitment you now have now turned 1 problem into 2.
3. Never Try to Downplay the Customers Problem
When someone reaches out to you with a problem the first thing you should remember is right or wrong, this person believes they have a problem with our product or service. Listen closely to what your customer is saying, write down the problem and repeat it back before you offer any type of assistance. Don’t interrupt unless it’s to clarify and NEVER try to downplay the customers’ problem. There is nothing more frustrating than calling someone to report a problem than being told before you even finish describing the problem that you don’t have a problem. I watched a competitor slowly lose a significant client over a period of 2 years because their company president refused to acknowledge the customers problem. He had no idea at the time why his customer was slowly being phased out until his customer made it perfectly clear several months later. “While we will still be using your services for A, we will no longer be using your company for B. We found have
4. Never Discuss Customer Issues In Public
Being a business traveler myself I see this mistake being made on a somewhat regular basis. Sometimes it’s the loud cell phone talker in the airport complaining about a customer problem to a friend, worse yet the 2 or 3 people who decide the hotel bar is the best place sit and have loud alcohol fueled conversation about the complaints their customer has at one site or another. While we all have a need to vent now and then venting your customer’s complaints in public is not only unprofessional it’s a risk no one can afford to take. While I have been witness to this foolish error more than a dozen times; on 2 occasions I have known the customer or someone who works for the provider. If I know someone, chances are some of the other people in the room do as well, some in fact might even work there. Keep customer complaints where they belong, between you and your customer. Should you feel the need to discuss them with others you work with find a conference room!
5. Never Ignore Social Media
Like it or not sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have become thee place to leave a random customer complaint. If you’ve been slow to accept social media chances are people have been talking about you, your company, your services or products. I attend 3 to 4 conferences each year and I am always surprised to hear people say even today that they don’t have a Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook account. While one would hope that everything written about them, their services or products would be 100% positive, the reality is if you’re not participating you’ll never know. Is it worth the risk?
As usual, I look forward to others adding to this list and thoroughly enjoy reading your comments. If you have something to add, liked what you read or have a great story that goes along with one of my 5 please take the time to comment!