There have been many examples of lack of service that I have experienced lately, and likely, you as well. It makes me wonder how businesses expect to stay in business! Is the customer no longer important at all? Do companies not realize they could lose their most valuable asset, the paying customer? Do companies not know that it is the customer who puts food on their table? When are we going to say, “Enough!” and just take our business elsewhere? Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.
First of all, some companies that we do business with do not have much if any competition, and in those cases, we are stuck trying to make our relationship with them work. There may be businesses with comparable products or services, but not the same, and we are not satisfied with “comparable,” we want the same. So we keep on trying to be satisfied, and often aren’t.
Then, sometimes it takes too much time to find another company that is any better than the one with which we are dissatisfied, so we keep putting up and putting up with lousy service. Sometimes we just don’t have the time or don’t take the time to take our business elsewhere. In customer service circles it has long been known that it is easier to keep a customer, even when the customer is unhappy, than it is to get new customers. The sheer time and effort it takes to move our business elsewhere is often more than we think we have to spend on that process. So the cycle of customer disservice goes on.
Lately I have noticed that many companies are doing what can be called, “smiles training.” “Smiles training” includes responses to a customer’s concerns that are obviously out of a cookbook of customer service training. Phrases mentioned such as, “I hear that you are frustrated, and I apologize for that” almost send me up the wall! I sometimes reply, “I appreciate the apology, but what I really need is a solution to this problem.” Actually, that isn’t totally honest. What I have actually said is, “I don’t want your apology; I want a solution to this problem!” Now, those responses of mine are very different, aren’t they? And while I know that the gentler approach is friendlier on my part, I honestly have not usually found that a solution is any more forthcoming with the nicer approach. But it is still the right approach. I should be nice, and often I am. After all, the person on the other end of the line is only doing what she/he has been told to do. The accountability for this is with the management of the company, not the employee. You know “smiles training” when you hear it. It includes the person giving you your burger at 8pm who doesn’t even make eye contact and yet says, “Have a nice day.” I want to reply, “The day is over, it is the evening!” This problem is so commonplace that I recommend in my customer service training that “have a nice day” not even be said. Instead, say something like, “Thank you for coming in; we appreciate your business.” Now that connects directly with the customer. Who doesn’t want to feel appreciated for their business?
Then there is the customer disservice of many companies’ telephone system including voicemail. I called a business recently and the voicemail message was, “If your call isn’t returned in 48 hours, feel free to call back.” 48 hours! And if the customer doesn’t get a call back in 48 hours, the responsibility is put upon them to initiate another call! I ordered something on line from Amazon on Saturday and was told it would arrive on Tuesday. It arrived a day early, on Monday! Is it any wonder that many people choose to order items such as toilet paper, paper towels and other regular essentials on line, avoiding the customer disservice of local businesses? And when those local businesses go OUT of business because they failed to provide service, they will blame the big boxes! It is so much easier to blame others for our failures than to change the things we need to change.
This issue of Customer Disservice is such an important topic that we will visit it again. We need to hold companies we do business with accountable for putting food on their tables.