Saturday, June 4, 2011

Is our dependency on technology making our customer service experiences even worse?

Years ago my friend and then neighbor Jim McCarthy, gave me a book that really opened my eyes – Service America! Doing Business In The New Economy.

The core message in the book is for companies to start thinking of their customer service as a product – viewing it as a revenue generator (ultimately) in keeping their customers loyal, at every stage of their relationship lifecycle with your business.

Lately I’ve had two terrible customer experiences, but two days ago I heard about an extraordinary one from an associate of mine.

The first bad experience is with my new lawn care relationship (basic weed and feed). When I signed up, I was promised a $30 Visa gift card because I was referred by a neighbor (referral marketing) and that my auto-pay invoice per treatment would be reduced from $42 per application to $37.50.

After I placed three phone calls to the company and received promises of a “make it right correction,” each time, alas nothing has yet happened to correct the problem.

A second occurrence has to do with an item of clothing we ordered online for a special occasion, where we purchased an accent option that did not deliver with the garment. We left a voicemail for the manufacturer, and now 10 days later, still no response. So this morning I accessed their website and submitted a inquiry form, where I received an auto-responder. We’ll see what happens.

Frustrating customer service (if you want to call it that) stories like this seem to be all I hear about lately. It appears that businesses are focusing on making the sale, and then forgetting about the follow-up.

When is the last time a company you purchased from said “thank you” for your business? Even better, when is the last time that a customer service inquiry you made was promptly returned?

C’mon business folk. Didn’t you ever hear about Customer Relationship Management? It’s all about building loyalty with the customers you have, upselling them and cross-selling them, and encouraging them to refer new business to you.

Okay…now the good news. A friend with a large family in Richmond lost use of her air conditioning during a sweltering heat wave there. When the repairman visited her home, he said it would take several days to get the parts that were needed to make the repair. And rather than leave them abandoned in the heat wave, without being asked, he promptly installed a portable air conditioner in each room of the house until relief could arrive. What a brilliant idea! Talk about taking good care of your customer.

As our economy continues to recover and consumers start to spend again, my guess is that we will all be more selective with whom we decide to do business, and to start making some hard choices about ending those relationships which do not earn our loyalty and respect.

Lawn care company, a heads up. On Monday, it’s your day of reckoning.

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