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Customers Fight Back Against Bad Customer Service

Most of us have heard the popular statistic, “customers who get lousy customer service will tell nine other people.” Well, that statistic is grossly out of date.

Because of the internet, when customers get lousy customer service they can now tell thousands, even millions of people about it. Witness how quickly the news about JetBlue leaving customers stranded on a plane for ten hours last year raced through the blogosphere. As thousands of blogs and the main stream media picked up the story, the company was almost brought to its knees in a matter of days.

I regularly check out several blogs and I’m amazed at how many postings focus on a nightmare customer service event the blogger experienced. And the writer rarely holds back on naming the offending organization.

One blogger recently was able to slam two communications companies in one shot in his post, Comcast Customer Service Sucks. And his blog is one that’s supposed to be dedicated to golf!

You might unfortunately even find a recording of the interaction posted; which is exactly what happened to AOL when an unhappy customer famously tried to cancel his service. This event eventually made its way to NBC News.

So next time you’re tempted to ignore, berate or embarrass a customer, just imagine that the next action may be to fire up his/her blog and let the world (literally) know what happened.


Customer Service In An Electronic World

As bricks and mortar increasingly give way to virtual organizations, more and more interactions with customers are taking place via the telephone and the Web. Some organizations apparently believe that while good customer service principles might apply to face-to-face interactions, they don’t apply to phone and internet interactions. Wrong. They do apply. Everyone has gotten lost in the phone directory maze of “press 1 for this, press 2 for that,” and when (or if) we finally get to a live person, that person comes across as indifferent or rushed (probably because they’re held accountable for call volume only). Most of us have also given up on trying to navigate some Websites, let alone trying to get a response via a Web inquiry.

I came across a good blog posting titled, “A Primer on Providing Professional Customer Service,” that addresses the basics of customer service in an electronic world. (Be patient when you go to the link; it takes a moment to download). The posting provides some practical ideas for making your electronic customer contact channels more user-friendly.

For me, the article highlighted a valuable customer service lesson. Leaders should regularly contact their own companies via the same electronic channels their customers use.

  • Call your 1 800 number and see how user friendly it is – it probably isn’t.
  •  Log on to your company’s Website and see how easy it is to get the information you need – and be sure to ask a question via the interactive feature.

See what happens. If you don’t like what occurs, imagine how your customers feel. They get mighty frustrated and while they might tolerate the frustration for awhile, they sure don’t get a warm, fuzzy sense of care. Making your phone and Web systems easy for customers to use (even a delight to use!) is an important part of any customer service strategy that shouldn’t be neglected.

Do it now – call your company or make contact via the company Website. How’d it go?

Customer Service Robots

Robotic customer service drives me crazy. Employees may be saying all the right words but, when those words are delivered robotically, the result is a forced, insincere impression. The message that’s actually communicated is, “my company makes me say these exact words.”

I experienced a vivid example of robotic behavior just last week while staying at a nice hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona. The facilities were spotless and the employees all very friendly. However, after any interaction with any of the hotel’s employees, face-to-face or on the phone, the employee always asked, “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

The first time was okay, even though the question was asked robotically. By the third time, however, it started to dawn on me that this was a scripted spiel. Any time I called the operator, room service, the front desk, or any other hotel department, the interaction always concluded with the exact words, “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” By my fourth day at the hotel I wanted to ask my question like this – “Can you please tell me where the health club is and no, there is nothing else you can help me with today.” That may seem harsh, but the question was obviously a script that the hotel’s management thought conveyed care. It didn’t. It conveyed insincerity since it was a script. And in four days I never once heard a guest say “Yes, there is something else you can help me with today.” (And I paid attention just to see).

The expectation of employees should be to demonstrate a sincere desire to help a customer. Employees can even be expected to conclude any interaction in a friendly way. But please don’t script those words in an inflexible, “every time, every customer”, manner. It comes across as robotic and quickly becomes a joke to the customer and employees. Let employees determine how they’ll say the words and also let them determine if the words are even appropriate in every circumstance.

Let’s eliminate robotic customer service!