Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Does having a customer services department mean you're failing?

I am being a little provocative with that question, but after calling a customer service department of a well known bank and coming off the telephone more frustrated than when I initially called, I decided that essentially the fact that many organisations have customer service teams means that they are acknowledging that things will go wrong at some point with their product or services. That they will let someone down.

But rather worse that that, I realised that many 'customer service' departments in the event of service failure actually do not have the people, systems and policies in place that actually put the customer or supporter first. In short we have a long way to go with customer care.

Before I go on, I am not basing this on just one farcical experience but it was the straw that broke the camel's back.

So 4 principles that to me would make a huge difference:

  • Actually listening to what a customer/supporter is actually asking for. Don't presume you know because someone starts a sentence in a certain way. From my recent experience I repeated the same thing several times, to several different people because the people I spoke to presumed to know what my issue was before taking the time to let me finish.
  • Tailoring what you can deliver. A big bugbear at the moment is the total inflexibility of certain companies in the face of absurdity. Though on many occasions you may not be able to give people exactly what they are asking for - it shouldn't just be about what you want to give them. There has to be some flexibility and indeed some license for customer care people to use their common sense and discretion. The people dealing with your customers / supporters every day need to be empowered to do the right thing.
  • If an organisation does mess up and someone calls to raise it, offer solutions to the customer or supporter. Far too many companies when they mess up then expect all the work to rectify the issue to be done by the person already inconvenienced. Even better if you know you've messed up proactively contact them and offer solutions.
  • Finally and this could be a little difficult, but where possible you should have a rule that if someone causes the problem / complaint then they are involved in rectifying it. From past experience as the person responsible for mailings etc but also speaking to the people who called with complaints or just upset, it was an invaluable experience. As a result, I knew the reason behind every communication and message that we sent and could explain that to anyone who called. As a consequence many supporters who started calls irate and upset finished calls happy and with some understanding.
This is not meant to be exhaustive in any way. There are libraries full of books about customer care. These are just nuances which to me would make a huge difference to even the most efficient customer service outfit. Because it is about people at the end of the day, and being able to resolve problems so well that it isn't the complaint people will share but your fantastic service.

Thank you for stopping by :o)

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