A rant with a point… turning a negative experience into a positive opportunity

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What are your customers REALLY thinking?

I spent much of last week on the phone, as a customer, to three different suppliers to ‘get things sorted’. It so happened that certain elements of the various services had hit a blockage, and the experience was less than seamless for me at the receiving end.

Now times they are a’changin’ as they say, and more than ever we need to encourage customer loyalty.

But how can we really keep our customers loyal in this market where there is such abundance of choice?

Personally, I would say – service, service and service… but that could also be read as Asking, Listening, Responding; or to put it another way – Doing what you say you’ll do, Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes, and Keeping in touch.

Read on and find out how the little, seemingly unimportant details, can make a huge difference.

Anyway, back to my stories / rants with a point – and each one does have a point – a learning or an action you can incorporate into your own processes.

  1. We purchased an item that required ‘after care’. The seller was absolutely open about that fact, and only too pleased to fulfil their obligations. However, even at that, we found it was always us having to make the call, and call back several times to get the ball rolling when the messages hadn’t been passed on, and that different people might tell us different things … that in itself wasn’t a deal-breaker so to speak, but it was definitely a road bump on the relationship path, and chipped away slightly at the level of confidence we had in that organisation… we may not be quite as keen to recommend them in the future.

The Point:  Think about the consequences of your actions and communicate accordingly.

Remove any guesswork from your customer’s path. Be clear in your communication as to your processes and who to contact in certain situations. Just make it easy for your customers – not only to partake of your service, but also to recommend you without hesitation.

  1. Recently we had an insurance claim. It was pretty straightforward in that there was no question as to it’s validity. So everything went smoothly… for the most part. At one point however, we were promised immediate action, which didn’t happen and resulted in the remedial works being delayed. And at another point, we got an odd call from an agent to failed to identify themselves, causing me to be suspicious and phone back to the organisation to confirm no spamming was happening… how easy it is to complicate a situation when just a few tweaks up front to the script could save so much hassle.

The Point: Follow up on your promises, and plan your calls.

Oh it’s so simple – do what you say you’ll do, communicate internally, and on a phonecall, follow basic etiquette: If you phone someone, introduce yourself first, to put them at ease and establish a basic rapport.

  1. We ordered a product online – and received only half a delivery. Over the days that followed, we were given several different stories as to what might have happened – label fell off in the warehouse and staff couldn’t find product (it was quite big, unboxed and pretty obvious…) / was shipped to a location in the south of England… from a Scottish warehouse…/ it was lost in transit, etc etc.

At the end of the day, I didn’t really care what had happened, I just wanted my delivery, intact. I received phonecall after phonecall from people updating me on the status, when in fact there was nothing they could tell me.  As a customer, I felt they were wasting my time. As well as their own. In the end, the company duplicated the delivery, wasting time and money on their part, when it all could have been avoided… quite simply by thinking it through. Incidentally, I was fraught, and expected a gesture from the company. They told me they’d get their manager to call me. Never happened. Would a small freebie have made a difference anyway? Was I likely to need a similar product again soon? Well, yes and yes actually. But will I use them again? Honestly? I started out with a lot of goodwill towards that company, but highly unlikely I’ll use them again.

The Point: If something does go wrong, be honest.

Then think through the processes on how to fix it most efficiently. Don’t annoy the customer with untruthful platitudes. Make a plan of action, and make sure you deliver on it. And say sorry. Give a freebie if you can. Treat your customers like you care, like they matter, like their business matters, like their opinions matter. Because all of that matters. And once you lose their faith, it’s very hard to re-establish your reputation.

  1. The last one was related – it’s about phoning companies with a query of any sort. To save cost, it’s fairly standard practice to have an automated answering service. Some are well thought out, check in with the caller on hold at short intervals, tell them where they are in the queue, mix up the hold-music etc etc. But some systems are a let down. There’s no thought, no plan, just an attempt to keep the customer on the hold until a human is available to answer. The problem is, without thought, people hang up, and go to the next supplier on the list… who may have a better system, a shorter wait, and who will win the business.

The Point: Technology comes with a cost.

If you’re going to use technology to replace human beings, then invest wisely, spend a little extra on a carefully planned system, and train the human call-handlers.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to this:

When you talk about Marketing, who are you thinking about? Your business, or your customer? Like it or not, Customer Service is absolutely central to marketing. Stands to reason, doesn’t it? Without the customer, you have no market.

And it doesn’t stop there. Every aspect of your business has to adopt a marketing approach – because every aspect of your business exists for the customer, and because of the customer. Think about it – Finance, Production, Communications, Sales and Service, Order Processing, Warehouse, Delivery and on and on – every part of the business has a part to play in customer satisfaction.

So when next you think about marketing – think about your whole business, and how the processes and people you have in place affect your customer experience.

If you have had times when you feel you could have done more for your customers… and problems have resulted, then contact me today, for a free, no obligation chat on how you can put your customers back at the heart of your business.

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