Customer Service is all about treatment. The story that follows shows how a company can meet the needs of an angry customer, yet lose his/her business because of the customer experience.
On the other hand, an organization can fail to meet a customer's needs, yet retain loyalty and repeat sales by giving the customer respect and some control.
Once, I had an awful customer-service experience with BuyTheCase.net, a company that sold items in bulk. Here's what happened:
I ordered a case of shampoo.
Instead, I was sent a case of vegetable soup.
I called and spoke and had a great conversation with Denise. It's easy to forgive a mis-ship, and they let me keep the soup. Well done! By the end of the call, the shampoo was reordered, and they offered a $5 credit.
Then, they sent a case of tile cleaner to me! I called and left an after-hours voicemail.
The response to that phone message was delivered in email, explaining that I could (again) keep the mis-shipped item, and that my shampoo would be reordered for a second time.
Aside from not answering my call in kind (they should have called back), I was not upset about the mistakes. After all, they let me keep two cases of free and useful items!
After about a week of silence, I called to find out what the status was on my order. The conversation started with the rep asking for my first and last name. I obliged. Then, I asked for her name. She avoided the question and continued to speak about how the shipment problem was being resolved. I asked for her name again. Still, she didn't answer my question. Once more I asked what her name was, and then said "Are you NOT going to tell me your name?"
That's when she transferred the call to a rep who, not only did state his own name, he even told me her name (it was Denise, the same person who I've spoken to and emailed before)! Why wouldn't she tell me her name? It would have been so easy for her answer that simple, direct question. (When dealing with companies, we're instructed to get names of the people helping us, right?) I asked this rep to have someone in Company leadership to call me regarding the unusual behavior. I made the same request numerous times via email.
BoxIn those emails, the "Customer Service Supervisor," Debbie, consistently deflected my requests, and refused to make verbal contact with me. This angered me even more. First I had a customer service rep who wouldn't tell me her name. Then, when I wanted speak with someone in the company about it, I couldn't even get that! She wasn't even willing to invest a few minutes to listen to my side of the story.
I am not annoyed about receiving the wrong item twice. Orders get botched. It happens. These kinds of errors can be overlooked when accompanied by proper customer handling. Minor mistakes don't drive customers away. Customers stop doing business with a company because of how they are treated. The people at BuyTheCase.net wouldn't listen to their customer. They chased me away.
All people want to be respected and have some semblance of control. BuyTheCase.net's Customer Service offered neither. As a result, they lost a customer.
Even in horrible customer service, there is incredibly valuable information. Use it to develop your own customer service best practices.
To provide excellent customer service:
Make amends for mistakes. BuyTheCase. Net did a good job of this by offering the mis-shipped items as a gift, and even offering a credit on my next order.
Identify yourself to the calling public. When my phone rings, we answer by saying "Improving Communications, this is So-and-so."
Answer customer queries in the same medium in which they arrived. Respond to email with email, or a call with a call (unless the customer suggests otherwise).
Listen to ALL your customers, especially irate ones. With angry clients, let them tell their side of the story—right or wrong. Don't judge. Just listen, acknowledge the inconvenience, and empathize.
Show respect for your customers and give them some degree of control. When the rep was asked for her name and it was denied, there was no respect or control.