- July 10, 2023
- Posted by: Dave Kurlan
- Category: Understanding the Sales Force
It’s been quite a while since I’ve written an article about the role that customer service plays in the retention and renewal of customers and accounts. In the past few weeks, I have experienced all kinds of customer service, including service you would expect, service that would surprise you, and service that wouldn’t change your mind about anything.
Some products are so exclusive, and so desirable, that crappy customer service might not even stop you from buying again. As an example, I’ll share my experience with the company from which we have already purchased two Ratio coffee makers. Everything about their customer service is wrong. They don’t want to be bad, they’re trying to be good, but they’re not succeeding. They took a week to respond because they are short-staffed and overwhelmed, and then they gave me three jobs to do. My rules 1 through 3 of customer service are (1) be responsive and (2) never give your customer a job and (3) find a way to say ‘yes’. I had to (1) answer a dozen questions about how we use the machine, what kind of water we use and how often we clean it; (2) I had to complete a warranty questionnaire, and (3) I had to make arrangements for making coffee because the return/repair will take up to 12 weeks! But we love the look of the machine in our kitchen and nobody makes a machine that looks this nice. It makes an amazing cup of coffee so we bought a third machine which only takes 8 weeks to arrive! Lesson: Even poorly executed customer service won’t stop a cult of product lovers from remaining customers when you serve a niche and don’t have competition in that niche.
Then there are companies whose products are not the only game in town. The company that used to provide us with Invisible Fence either merged with or was acquired by Invisible Fence. I cut the wire while doing some digging in the yard and tried contacting the company to come and locate the break and repair the line. It took them ten days to respond and they apologized for the “slight delay” in getting back to me. Then they wanted me to provide them with all of the pertinent information that they should have already had, like name, phone number, property size, number of dogs, etc. I used to be able to simply go online and schedule a technician and now they have me jumping through hoops just to get someone here. Unfortunately for them, during the ten days they were radio silent, I found the break, repaired the line and didn’t need them anymore. And next year, after construction to the property will require a reinstall, I will call one of their competitors. Lesson: When you have legit competition and you suck, nobody is coming back.
Everyone complains about the service they get from their phone and cable companies. My recent experience with Verizon supports that. Last month, after 21 years without a problem, their wireless internet stopped working along the route to the center of town. It took several attempts over several days to finally reach a human and when I did, he wouldn’t listen. He wanted to test my phone even though I made it clear that the entire family was having the same problem. They wanted to test the network even though I told him that calls go through and it was only internet that wasn’t working. As a non-expert, it was obvious to me that it was a local problem affecting only data. I wanted to share exactly where the issue was occurring but my customer service agent was located somewhere in Asia. In the end, I wasted an hour on the phone with someone who could only give me the phone number for technical support, even though I had asked for technical support at the very beginning of the call. Lesson: When it’s too much aggravation to change, people may remain customers despite your sucky customer service.
Something I purchased from Amazon wasn’t as the website described it. I went to the Amazon site, clicked orders, clicked the item I wanted to return, and they provided an instant, no questions asked refund, a label to print and multiple options for getting it back to them within 30 days. Easy! Target does the same thing. Lesson: Make customer service fast, easy, painless, and automatic and you’re just as likely to tell the world about a good thing you experienced as you are a bad thing that you experienced.
This great article describes an experience I had with Safelite in 2020. It’s different from the examples above because they screwed up very badly and then one individual bent over backwards to make it right.
This article describes a great customer service experience I had with Lufthansa in 2015 and has links to 9 other articles I have written about customer service.
Most customers are retained or lost as a direct result of how customer service takes care of them. Not salespeople. Customer service.
But with customer service having such an impact, both positive and negative, what happens when your customer doesn’t ever reach out to customer service?
Surprisingly, customers who never have a problem, and don’t need to speak with customer service, are mostly easily poached by the competition, while customers who do have a problem, and it is properly solved by customer service, are most likely to stay with the company. It’s not about your product or service being perfect. It’s about customer service being perfect.
Image copyright 123RF