So You Wanna Lose Customers?

Ok, so no body actually wants to lose customers— but based on some of my recent customer service experiences (or lack thereof) you might think that was the plan. In a nutshell, I recently ordered a product from a company, it took an extremely long time to arrive and when it did it was defective. I sent the product back in exchange for a new one, heard nothing back after two weeks, emailed to see when I could expect a new product to be shipped, heard nothing back, a week later emailed again only to be told they didn’t think my product was defective in the first place and that it would take another 22 days to send a new product to me. My first thought was to recommend Lens Crafters to this representative because the item I sent them back was clearly flawed. But really? No apology for the lack of response, substandard product and no attempt to make amends. Two months later after placing my order I still have no product. I’ll just take my money back. Thanks.

There are basic golden rules of customer service (most that you probably learned by the 3rd grade) that every company should follow if they want to survive. Boiled down: No customer service = No business. It’s that simple.

Here are five customer service rules your company should live (or die) by:

  1. Apologize- like I said, a basic rule you were taught as a child still applies especially when offering a service. If you were wrong or even if you weren’t- apologize for the mistake, inconvenience, misunderstanding or whatever it might be. Apologies go a lonnnng way.
  2. Take a customer’s concerns seriously- some customers will never be satisfied, and some are just looking for something for nothing.  Don’t assume this is the majority of your customers.  Most customers have busy lives with lots of demands, if they take the time to come to you with a concern it is a legit enough issue to them.  You can avoid most problems by having clear, concise policies relating to what your customer service policies are.  Many times customers become frustrated and irate simply because they can’t find out information for something as simple as a phone number to reach a person that can answer basic questions.  If you are encountering the same issue with customers over and over, the onus is on you to make the change to address it.
  3. Make It Right- this begins by simply acknowledging their concerns.  Tell them immediately what your policies are for addressing concerns or complaints.  Give the customer comfort in knowing there is a process in place to address their issues, and it will be carried out with patience.
  4. Return Complaint Calls, Emails or Letters Promptly- treat complaints as you would the initial sale.  Do you take several days to respond to a purchase order?  No.  A customer that has to wait days and weeks for a remedy is a customer you will lose forever.
  5. Train Your Staff to Always Be Courteous- tone of voice and sincerity speak volumes. Employees should also know the policy for responding to customer complaints as well as they know how to carry out a sale.  If you do not have a written, well-articulated policy for addressing complaints you are courting disaster.  Think through situations.  Adjust to new issues as they arise, especially if patterns of problems develop.  Now this isn’t an excuse for an employee to take verbal abuse without end, there should be a plan in place to take care of those situations too.

Remember word of mouth will make or break your business.  Studies have shown that an unhappy customer will tell an average of 10 people about their bad experience. An unhappy customer speaks more loudly and more frequently than happy customers. Keep them happy and treat others like you would want to be treated.