+Scott Watson

Monday, 9 January 2012

Customer Service Or Customer Nightmare?

So many people in business view 'Customer Service' as a vital ingredient in their recipe for success.  And that's fair enough and completely understandable.

But, customer service is only a good starting point, and not a final destination.  Why so? Because what customer's really want, beyond 'service' is Customer Satisfaction.  Service is what your company believes it should, and in most cases, can provide to potential and existing customers.  It's your processes, standards, policies and even beliefs about 'what's right'.  As I said, it's a good start.  It's absolutely vital that you have some form of structured approach to serving your customers whatever your industry sector.  But customer satisfaction is what's going to get buyers to your web site, through your doors and telling their friends about you.  Here are a few real-life examples:

High Street Hairdressing Chain

I called my local salon to book an appointment for my hair to be cut.  I've been a customer (or 'client' as the organisation states) of this company for 5 years and have always been happy with the level of cut delivered.  Unfortunately, my hair is disappearing so perhaps I rather appreciate the stylist's ability to make my see through pat not so see through?

It's company policy for this chain to 'massage' your head as well as shampoo....and condition.  It's all rather trendy and somehow adds value to the 'client experience' - or so the manager told me!?

I spoke with the receptionist who advised me of a time slot which she could book me in for.  Due to the time slot not leaving me much time to return home and get ready for a business meeting I asked her 'May I just have a dry cut on this occasion as I have to be back home to get ready for a meeting?'  A straightforward request and one which I thought would not encounter resistance.

But that's not what happened.  Oh no, a dry cut?  No massage?  That couldn't be done. 'You can't have a dry cut, it's not possible and we don't do them' was the rather sharp response from the receptionist.  I responded, 'It's because I have a business meeting shortly after the appointment and I need to get back home, change and then drive to the client office....I'm not asking for any discount, I'm happy to pay the full fee. It would be really helpful if you could just book me in for a dry cut with Anna'. Can you do that please?'

Without a pause for breath, the receptionist advised me that 'Appointments HAVE TO last forty minutes, and as a dry cut will only take twenty minutes, we can't do it.'  Starting to notice where the nightmare is about to begin now?

I politely restated that it would be really helpful to me if she could book me in for the dry cut appointment, that I'd previously had 'the fully monty' and on many occasions, the appointment didn't last forty minutes, or anywhere near that duration for that matter.  'No, it's not our policy so you can't have it'. And that was most definitely her final answer.

Let's Review

Here is a long-standing customer (oops, client) doing his best to give a company cold hard cash and they simply won't accept it.  Why not? Because the customers request is deemed 'unreasonable' and doesn't fit nicely with their 'policy'.

Here's the real bonus.  It is the stylists job to keep the client in the seat for no less than forty minutes.  Why? Because it's company policy!  Even if it adds no value at all to the customer (oops, client), you need to keep him or her seated, right there in your salon.

After all, why let excellent customer service and customer satisfaction get in the way of a company policy?

Having advised the Head Office Customer Service Manager at the company of the situation she offered me a free haircut at the salon in question to resolve the issue.  Will I be going back?  Not a chance!

The Travel Agent Who Doesn't Deliver What He Offers

I listened to a regional news channel this morning and heard an interview with a Yorkshire based travel agent.  The interview was designed to help listeners understand that, despite the turbulent economy and a need to watch the pennies, it was still possible for family's to get away from it all and bathe themselves in sunshine in some faraway land.

The interviewer asked the travel agent what special offers were available during January and the agent responded with deals including 'Australia for just £199' along with many other unbelievable deals.  And that's just what they were, un-believable! I called the travel agent who advised me that his phone had been 'ringing off the hook' since the radio interview. And, upon further investigation, I wasn't surprised. He quoted me a £50 return journey from Manchester to Dubai, the only catch being, it was an indirect flight that would require a transfer of plane in Amsterdam.

But that really wasn't the only catch.  The 'special offers' this crafty businessman had quoted on air, and to me on the phone were all net of taxes.  Really, my wonderful £50 flight was over £450 when taxes were included. And shouldn't they be?  After all, isn't this travel agent intentionally misleading listeners into getting in touch with him?

The old saying of 'If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is', springs to mind here. But why mislead in the first place? Surely this approach erodes the very thing you want to develop with potential customers? Trust!

How Are You Doing?

So, these are a couple of quick examples where customer service, and indeed customer satisfaction have failed to materialise. How is your organisation doing in terms of delivering customer service that supports your organisation and its potential and actual customers? And, do you ever check to see if your customer satisfaction record is worthwhile and meaningful?

If you choose to ignore the very real problems that inept and/or inferior customer service can cause your organisation, you may have performed rather well during the economic boom, but, as many organisations are finding to their cost, this is the 'Bust' time and you need all hands on deck in attracting and retaining customers.

Scott Watson

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