Customer service: What is going on?

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

Recently I have experienced some appalling customer service. I have also experienced some great customer service and am endlessly fascinated by the differences. Why do some organisations struggle to get it right while others make it look effortless?

I do a lot of purchasing online, mainly supporting NZ small businesses producing my very specific requirements. I am a firm believer in buying local (NZ), especially at this time.

However, this is not always possible and I recently purchased, online, two pairs of track pants from a major sports apparel brand. This was after buying my first pair in person and being very pleased with them. So now I have 3 different pairs of track pants because I am walking everyday. Well one of these was not like the others and shrunk ridiculously. I contacted the call centre and was sent emailed instructions regarding sending photos of the faulty pants. After having not received a response almost a full month later, I followed up by phone. I have to return the pants and wait up to 20 days for a refund. Given the lack of customer service up to this point, I asked what guarantee I would have about getting a refund (without having to follow up again). Instead of responding to this question, I was advised that I should follow the washing instructions. Needless to say, I was not impressed.

In contrast, I buy my soap from Meraki Studios and Jo is always amazing. Personally letting me know when my order is on its way and letting me know immediately if there are any issues likely to delay it. I buy wool from Squishy McDo and Margaret includes lots of little extras in each parcel and is very forgiving when I forget to make my payment. These women love what they do and take very good care of their customers, because they understand how important return custom is to their livelihood.

Squishy McDo delights

Not all small businesses are this great though. I am constantly waiting on responses from tradesmen who are obviously too busy to follow up on potential business. Not all large business customer service is like my track pants experience either. I have had several occasions to deal with both State and AA insurance agents lately and could not recommend them more highly.

So what is the difference?

I think there are two main ingredients to great customer service. Firstly, you have to believe in the product and love what you are doing. Secondly, you need to be well versed with the processes to be empowered to make the right decisions quickly. This takes process development, documentation, and most importantly, good training. Without the processes, there will no documentation, then the training is unlikely to be consistent. Either of these ingredients can produce good customer service, but in combination, they usually result in exceptional customer service.

Do your people know your processes well? Do they love what they are doing and are they empowered to make good customer service decisions? Does your documentation match your processes? Are your customers experiencing consistent customer service from you and your representatives?







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