Customer service is a funny thing. We all know when we’ve received a poor version of it, and we tend to tell everyone we know about it too, including lots of strangers in cyberspace as well as our family, colleagues and friends. In contrast, good customer service tends to be invisible. We accept it as our due, and think no more about it.
Recently I played a game of Customer Service Room 101* with a training group, and I thought you might be interested to see the seven horrors we nominated to go into our Customer Service Torture Chamber:
- 1. Queuing. Busy people are visiting or phoning your business in their lunch hour, during a small gap in a hectic day or in their precious leisure time. Respect that by having sufficient, well trained staff in place where and when your customers are going to need them. Leave customers in a queue and they are likely to go elsewhere (I’ve done it myself, haven’t you?).
- 2. Complaints and niggles that are not resolved immediately and with good grace. Of all customers who have a problem, only one in three will complain there and then. One in twelve won’t bother to complain at all, they will just vote with their feet. So think about how you can establish that all your customers are fully satisfied before they leave you, rather than letting them go outside and grumble.
- 3. “I’ll get the manager for you.” Do your people have sufficient authority to give their customer a satisfactory outcome without having to refer every query or niggle upwards? Escalation should be kept for major complaints. Get your staff trained properly and give them the autonomy to do what the manager would have done anyway.
- 4. Customer service staff that are ‘robots’ (the group’s words, not mine!). Don’t look at you, don’t smile at you, don’t have any personality in their voice. *Sigh* What more can I say…
- 5. “Computer says no” (to paraphrase Little Britain). If you cannot give someone what they want, explain why. Just blanking people is a sure fire way to make them (and their money) walk away for good. If something is going wrong there and then, keep your customers informed. Ever been on a platform when the train service has been seriously disrupted? Then you’ll know what I’m talking about.
- 6. Staff who don’t know their products. Customers do understand that new staff are learning the ropes, but those staff should be properly supported by experienced colleagues when they’re out there representing your brand. I urge you to review your product and customer service training, to make sure your people get up to speed as efficiently as possible, and that everyone is regularly updated on changes to the products and services offered.
- 7. Inconvenience of time and place. Many of us will have taken a day off work to wait for a delivery that has been scheduled to arrive ‘between 7am and 7pm’. No, no, no. Just, no. Delight your customers by making access to your service convenient, be it through the location of your shop front, the opening hours of your helpline, the delivery service you offer for items bought. Pay particular attention to making your services accessible to people with sensory or physical impairment, it’s a growing sector and one that is equally deserving of great customer service.
It’s a far from exhaustive list. What else would you put in Customer Service Room 101? And more to the point, are you sure that all of these are truly someone else’s problem, and not yours too?
*In case you’ve never seen it, Room 101 is a BBC programme in which celebrities are invited to nominate their pet hates. The show’s title comes from George Orwell’s novel Nineteen-Eighty-Four, in which Room 101 is a torture chamber that exposes prisoners to their worst nightmare.