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Busy is No Excuse for Poor Customer Service

Being busy is great for your bottom line, but don’t let it be an excuse for letting your customers down. Here are 3 key lessons in customer service.

Most business owners and other entrepreneurs know that customer service is important, but they may not realize just how important. Building your business’s reputation starts with customer service and ends with an amazing product or service. But, you have to get through step one before you can show your customer how great your product or service really is. Take a few lessons from one of the worst customer service experiences of my life (so far) to avoid angry customers and acquire repeat customers.

Shortly after I moved into my house a few years ago I hired a painter. Everything he told me upfront sounded great, but as the job progressed, I realized that this painter was awful–rude, inconsiderate, unreliable, and terrible at managing his company. He promised me amazing results (hence we hired him) but then didn’t deliver. His explanation? It was his busy season. When I found him cutting corners, I held him to his word that I would be 100% satisfied, so I’m sure he lost money and time on my job. (He convinced me to paint over the existing wallpaper because he didn’t want to take the time to remove it and swore that his guys would do such a good job that I couldn’t see the seams. I saw the seams–they were as clear as the nose on my face.)

By the end of the project, things were so bad that while we wanted his crew to finish the job, we asked him not to come back. To this, he asked “I can’t come to MY jobsite?” and we responded, “No, you can’t come into OUR home.” He was disruptive of the entire process, and did not respect our requests. Not only was his crew more skilled at painting than he was (we have several complicated finishes that require an artist’s eye/touch), they worked better and faster without him present.

It’s much easier to see customer service deficiencies when you are the customer. Next time you think you’re too busy to be fully focused and present with your clients, consider these critical (basic?) customer service techniques.

Stand by your word. One of the worst things about this painter was that he promised me the sun and moon, and then gave me rocks.
When you promise a customer great results, you better deliver. Customers rely on you to provide the results you have promised, particularly when you are supposed to be the expert in a given area. You want your customers to be able to trust you. So, when you tell them that you will have the project done by a certain date or that it can be done a certain way, be sure that you have given your customer realistic expectations. Along the same lines, be sure that if anything changes in your estimation, you communicate that to your client as soon as possible. Explain why this happened and what kind of impact this will have on the project as a whole. Ultimately, you want the customer to be completely satisfied so that your trustworthy reputation can grow (and you can get referrals).

Remain professional in every circumstance. This painter actually sat on my toilet in the powder room while we discussed paint colors for that room. That is not professional. I don’t care how tired or busy you are–please don’t sit on my toilet while we discuss business.

Regardless of your business model, your customers expect to be met with professionalism. Running your own business can be crazy, hectic, and downright stressful, but that is never an excuse to become unprofessional with a client. Your customer has very little sympathy for your other projects and obligations. To them, they are the only obligation that matters, and most customers want to be treated that way. You must make every effort to meet this expectation.

Take ownership of your mistakes. When I confronted this painter about his sloppy work, he made excuses instead of fixing it.

Most customers realize that everyone is human, and everyone makes mistakes. While we want to avoid mistakes as much as possible, the truth is that eventually something will go wrong. When that happens, don’t make excuses, make improvements. Own your mistakes. Admit that it happened, apologize when you are wrong, and take steps to correct the oversight. Explain to your customer what you plan to do to address the mistake. If the mistake sets the project back, be sure that the customer knows that as well. Effective communication is extremely important in any client relationship.

These tips may seem straightforward, but that might be why they are so often overlooked. Keep the basics in mind during every client interaction, and your business will be well on its way to a great reputation. Make it easy for your customers to do business with you, and they will keep coming back.

Originally Published here: INC.COM

How to Innovate in Customer Experience?

Why Innovate in the Area of Customer Experience (CX)?

A recent trip to Shanghai reminded me of the importance of continually innovating to improve on the customer experience. Although “Frozen Beer”[1] did not seem appealing to me I was intrigued by the process that the restaurant owner must have followed to conclude that the Japanese invention of “Frozen Beer” was the innovative drawcard needed to increase his Spanish restaurant. The need to differentiate from the competition is an ongoing process and requires well thought innovations to keep customers coming. “Frozen Beer” may just do it for the local market in Shanghai. At the very least it made me stop and curiously investigate further what was being offered.

At the very heart of a successful and sustainable customer experience strategy lies innovation. A company’s ability to successfully innovate around how their customers experience their products and services by continually innovating in areas that will excite their customers on an ongoing basis, and keep them coming back, will define whether a company will be able to make their customer experience a sustainable market differentiator.

The answer to the questions around “why innovate in the area of customer experience” is heavily rooted in a company’s long-term vision around sustainability and their desired position in the marketplace relative to their competition. Any company that takes customer experience seriously and identifies it a key market differentiator will need to know how to innovate effectively.

The Value of CX Innovation

Customer experience innovation creates value for an organisation when it can achieve the following two outcomes:

Acquire new customers profitably not previously engaged with the company
Retain and increase the spend of existing customers through voluntary loyalty
To be able to realise this internal value companies need to firstly have a good grasp over what their customers value the most. There is a scientific process in CX management to determine these specific value categories. Research is also available around some generic findings for what customers value the most. Nunwood in the UK has undertaken research that has isolated what customers value the most by relevance. They identify 6 key pillars (The Six Pillar System® (6PS®[2]).

How to Innovate in Customer Experience? An analysis of what your customer value will identify a similar range of categories. All these categories are related to emotions experienced during an interaction with your company.

The analysis of what customers value the most is simply the first requirement towards innovation. The second requirement is to understand how future trends and social-economic conditions will change what your customers expect tomorrow. Creating real value from innovation must be forward thinking and not based only on the current situation. A company will need to have a process to anticipate future expectations of their customers and to have the mechanism to address these through well thought through innovations.

To be able to realise an effective CX innovation program, companies need to change their thinking processes. One of the key challenges facing companies today, as identified by Kinetic, is the ability to have a structured process of thinking that will lead to sustainable innovations in the CX area.

Ask yourself this question: “would you be willing to completely change your business model today even though it was booming but your analysis identified that your business model was no longer relevant for the future?” This was clearly answered by the restaurant owner Adrià from elBulli in Spain. The restaurant he operated in Spain, elBulli, was rated by Restaurant magazine as the “Best Restaurant in the World” in 2007. The restaurant had a 6 month waiting list and was full every night it operated. However, in 2010, Adrià decided to close the restaurant. Adrià told Time magazine “part of my job is to see into the future, and I could see that our old model is finished…It’s time to figure out what comes next”.

Having the courage to change your entire business model to ensure sustainability is one thing. What is required first is a new way of thinking.

New Ways of Thinking

Innovation requires a new way of thinking. It’s not simply about thinking “outside of the box”. This type of thinking is limited and may lead to wrong paths that do nothing for differentiation or add value to your customers.

There are two key types of thinking processes that form the basis of any innovation process:

The creative aspect. Also identified as divergent thinking or inductive reasoning
The logical aspect. Also identified as convergent thinking or deductive reasoning

Both are required using a systematic process of thinking to arrive at the desired outcome: a CX innovation that can be delivered by the company in a timely manner and achieve the business outcomes outlined earlier.

Business creativity is not a new concept and there are numerous authors, DeBono Wertheimer’s, Osborne’s, Parnes’ and Koestle, which have written on the topic of how to think creatively.

More recently Brabandere and Iny co-authored a book titled Thinking in New Boxes (published 2013)[3]. In their book they provide a 5 step process to follow that is designed to position companies ahead of the curve and provide a long-term sustainable result. Their process is designed to firstly breakdown our preconceived ideas of our company, products and services. They rightly highlight that the human brain has been designed to quickly categorise what it perceives in the sensory world into tightly constructed “boxes”. This has the ability to enable humans to process information quickly and has greatly contributed to our survival as a species. However, in business, these “boxes” can prevent us from thinking differently in a divergent manner.

Their process revolves around the creation of “new boxes” to enable the type of thinking that our brains are more accustomed to. Identifying these new boxes is a critical step to ensure we are not blind to risks and opportunities in the marketplace. Their 5 step process is summarised as follows:

Doubt Everything: challenge your current perspectives about your business, your products and services
Probe the Possible: explore the options around you both internal to your organisation but also examine the possibilities in the marketplace driven by megatrends.
Divergence: brainstorm many new and exciting ideas, even if they seem absurd
Convergence: use your deductive reasoning to select ideas that will drive sustainable breakthroughs for your company
Re-evaluate: No idea is good forever.
The first step in the process is designed to make you ask questions, to challenge rigid rules and tired frameworks. The primary goal of step 1 is to take you out of your comfort zone of cognitive thinking. An example of step 1 might me to challenge the concept that ownership of a car must be through a purchase of the car. Could ownership be in fact shared?

How to Innovate in Customer Experience? The process is designed to help us identify the tightly held beliefs that form your current “boxes”. Once identified you will need to determine how they should be challenged, revised, enhanced or replaced. The creation of “new boxes” outlining the types of issues you wish to investigate and outcomes to be achieved will drive you to step 2 in the process in a structured manner.

Step 2 is designed to explore the possibilities by investigating three key dimensions:

Consumer Insights
Competitive Intelligence
Exploring Megatrends

Step 2 focuses on prospective thinking. In this step you will need to examine the 3 dimensions around a series of “what and how” questions. For example, “what experiences are your customers seeking now and how is that likely to change in the future?” “How will the megatrend of wearable technology affect how your customers interact with you?” “What and how can competitors do to provide a better customer experience in the future?”

The first two steps are designed to create the boundaries of the new boxes to provide structure around the third step: divergence. During this stage we are not simply asking people to “think outside the box” but are asking them to break the rules around their thinking, transcend the past, and shatter existing assumptions within the boundaries established in the first two steps.

What line of business are you in? In the divergent stage you will arrive at new creative and hopefully more focused ways to identify your business. A good example is McDonalds. They’re not into fast food but rather they see their core business as speed and convenience. More recently they have added a “healthy” and “more natural” option for customers.

Step 4 is convergence. This is the critical step of reintroducing deductive thinking again to help you determine which box you should focus on. During convergence you will need to take each idea and see how well it fits along set criteria. These criteria would include the following:

Alignment: how well is the idea aligned to your company’s vision, goals, competence of your organisation, and your company’s values and culture?
Feasibility: consider the resources, time frames, fincial returns, regulatory environment to determine the feasibility of the idea.

Impact: will this idea enhance the brand, give you a competitive advantage, how will it affect your customers and what risks are associated with this new idea?

The final step is around re-evaluating your ideas. As mentioned earlier no idea is great forever. As the world around us changes so will there be a constant need to change the boxes and create new ones. The one constant in our world is change itself. We are assured that what happens today will change tomorrow because of technology, economic upheaval, natural disaster, political changes and cultural changes.

The cycle taking us back to step 1 where we doubt everything needs to take place on a regular basis. There are some key signals we can look out for that will help you determine the need for innovation. Some key signals are:

A changing value proposition
New unmet consumer or customer needs
The entry of new competitors, new suppliers, or changing offers from business partners
The advent of new breakthrough technologies and/or product or service offerings
Changes in your organisation’s core performance metrics
Unfulfilled business and other potential opportunities
Broad disruptive events
Premonitions, anxieties, and/or intuitions

An example of widespread disruption can be seen with smartphones and the applications developed for a number of services. This technology has created widespread disruption in numerous industries. Think of what Uber[4] has done to the Taxi business worldwide. This company was established in 2009 and has transformed how people request car transportation. Uber created a business model that leveraged the technology inherit in smartphones (mapping, GPS, tracking, internet access etc.) to disrupt how people can get a ride. The CEO was recently interviewed on CNN and described how his company aimed at making getting a car to pick you up “like turning a tap to get running water”. The company is currently valued around US$18 Billion.

Which CX Innovation Idea to Pursue?

The answer to this question lies in where your organisation is in terms of CX maturity. Taking this exercise without an internal appetite for change or without a basic level of customer centricity will not yield any valuable impacts.

Your organisation may not be ready to innovate around CX if the following does not exist:

CX is championed as a key business differentiator by the CEO and board.
The value of CX is articulated and understood throughout the entire organisation
The company vision and mission is clearly articulated
There is an in-depth understanding of your existing customers and what they value the most

These requirements need to be in place to enable you to identify which CX innovation to pursue. Without them the process will stall. For example, let’s say you identify a great new mobile application for customers to buy your services. This may be useful if the majority of your customers are millennials but if you lack this insight then it may not be the best innovation to pursue. What if the majority of your customers were elderly and aren’t comfortable using smartphones?

To effectively determine the right CX innovation to pursue you will have to have completed the preliminary work around developing an in-depth insight around your customers, prospects, competitors and external market forces. Only then will you be able to more accurately determine the project most likely to be executed by your organisation and able to generate the highest return on investment.

[1] The restaurant promoting the “Frozen Beer” was called Castilla located in the Tian Zi Fang creative park in Shanghai

[2] Nunwood sourced material.

[3] Thinking in New Boxes – A New Paradigm for Business Creativity. Luc De Brabandere & Alan Iny – Random House. 2013

[4] Uber:

Originally Published Here: B2C Community

The ‘what’ and the ‘who’ of
customer experience measurement

Measurement is the backbone of modern management as it provides many of the facts that support and inform effective decision-making. So it should come as no surprise that measurement is a necessary component of the customer experience (CE) change process, whether you’re considering a transformational or incremental change to your organization’s CE offerings.

Let’s review the “what” and the “who” of customer experience measurement, which are essential to getting started…and getting it right.

What to measure?

In broad strokes, measurement can alert CE managers as to when and how change is needed and then how well the changes implemented are performing. Measurement is needed at both the relationship level and then at the transactional level.

At the relationship level, the marketing and customer experience functions in an organization must work closely together. With the former tasked with attracting new customers and the latter with keeping existing customers, both need to know:

Which product/service providers are used by customers and why;
Performance of the competition and the client company on key metrics;
Change over time in performance as measured by these key metrics;
What new trends are emerging in the marketplace.
The results of this research:

Can be modelled to identify the key drivers of satisfaction/performance excellence among both client product/service users and non-users. This would define the key performance metrics in future research.
Serve as input for SWOT analyses that will help determine if a customer experience change is needed and whether it should be incremental or transformational.
The SWOT analysis may identify areas for weakness in the current customer experience that need to be improved. These are likely to result in incremental change. Or, completely new views on customer experience may be presented requiring transformational change. In either case, additional measurement will likely be required to understand more specifically what customers want and how these needs should be met. For example, knowing that cleanliness is important to a hotel guest is critical but does not help the facility manager much. For this, techniques like customer journey mapping can lend detailed direction on how experiences should be modified or created.

Once these new experiences are in place, managers need to know how well they are performing. Adjustments may be required at the broader program level or at the individual delivery point. For this, transactional measurement is most useful. Customers are proactively contacted or asked to contact the company to provide feedback on individual transactions, usually via a specific delivery channel. Surveys are usually short, asking for a few key metrics. In cases where delivery falls far short of customer expectations, the process can serve as a tool for customer recovery. The return on investment of CE initiatives is an obvious concern for senior corporate managers. For this reason operations level metrics also need to be included in the CE management process.

Who to measure?

The obvious answer here is current customers — and that is correct. But, CE managers need to make sure that they survey a good representation of their entire customer base. Transactional surveys are the most challenging here, as the approach used by many organizations requires a proactive contact from the customer (the “How did we do today?” request at the bottom of a store receipt, for example). However, many customers do not respond to these invitations unless they have had an especially good or bad experience.

Incentives are often used to encourage people to participate in these surveys, but these add cost and may have only a limited impact. And, large incentives may encourage some to try to ‘game’ the system to get more than they may deserve. Some companies contact recent customers directly by telephone or e-mail to ask about a recent transaction. This is more effective from a sampling perspective, but requires availability of contact information — it can also be much more costly.

Other groups should not be ignored as well. Lapsed customers should be interviewed to determine why they have switched. As suggested above, non-customer category users should be contacted to determine who they are using and why, along with their awareness and image of the products and services of the client. And, we must remember the importance of employees – employee satisfaction should be measured and used in the CE management process.

Source: CMA

5 Things Customers Don’t Want to Hear…EVER

Oh companies. Relationships are SO much easier than you make them. In fact, there are only a few things that you need to do in order to make your customers significantly happier. Or rather, there are a few things you must stop doing and saying that will change your customers’ experiences drastically.

I’ve compiled a short list for you (though there are more). Here are some things you need to stop doing and saying:

1. “It’s our policy.”

Now, you may use this and think: “Why is this wrong? It enables a fair way to treat customers across the board.”

The problem with trying to treat customers the same across the board is that not every situation is cut and dried. And, frankly, some policies are antiquated and outdated. The moment you have to let a customer down by saying “it’s our policy,” you are failing that customer.

And yes, I know that you don’t want your customer service staff running all amok with bleeding hearts and breaking your bank, but that is why you need to train them properly and empower them to help your customers. A good customer service policy is to:

a. train your agents on multiple scenarios and then;

b. give them a buffer allowance each month and;

c. give them all sorts of ways to help the customer instead of shutting down the conversation.

If they have a certain budget to play with each month where they can make a decision on whether to give a customer a break or take a return marked “no refunds”, they can use their training to decipher a reasonable response and then be empowered to make it. Here is an example:

A customer calls their cell phone company and says, “My bill is outrageous! I didn’t realize that going over my data would cost me an extra $200! I can’t afford this!” The agent then can walk through a customer’s bill and figure out if the mistake was made in earnest and then either undo the $200 OR adjust the bill a smaller amount (maybe cut it in half), but talk the customer into a more robust ongoing data plan (which can help the company make the money up in the long run).

Of course, if a customer doesn’t know what to expect, this is an issue in itself. Which leads me to #2.

2. “It was in your contract.”

Newsflash: nobody actually reads contracts. I’m not sure why anyone uses a big long legalese document to give customers upfront information about a service. It’s the worst way to present information in the universe. You may as well write it in Sanskrit on a stone tablet.

I’m not saying your customers have no responsibility to read what they sign, but when you are excitedly signing up for a new service or website or whatever, the last thing you do is to sit and read a long document. And the salesperson moving the sale through doesn’t really give you much of a chance either.

Why not present limitations and terms and conditions in a readable, fun manner? A great example of turning boring, mandated information into something people will engage in is Virgin America’s awesome in-flight safety video. Everyone knows that when those safety videos come on, our eyes glaze over and we focus on the book or magazine or anything else. But not when you are on a Virgin Flight:

Watch a Video here YouTube:

Right? You don’t have to go to that level of production, but why not make it readable and enjoyable? This way, you will never have to say, “It’s in your contract.” Your customers will know. In fact, they may even be able to sing it back to you.

3. “See our answer here [with link].”

Why not just talk to me? Seriously. If I ask something that is too long for a tweet, answer me with a few tweets. That’s cool.


@myhandle: Hey cable company! Why am I on hold for over 45 minutes today? WTH?

@cablecompany: @myhandle Sorry for your inconvenience. Go check our outage schedule here: [link to website]

Grrrrrrrrrr. A wee bit of effort would help a whole lot here. I have probably already gone to your website to find your really hard to find number to call to be put on hold. I’m trying to use Twitter to get some answers and be more efficient. Don’t make me click something else!

This would be better:

@myhandle: Hey cable company! Why am I on hold for over 45 minutes today? WTH?

@cablecompany: @myhandle Sorry for your inconvenience. I see you are calling from Toronto where there are lots of outages. Can I help?

@myhandle: @cablecompany Yeah. Do you happen to know what’s wrong? When the cable service is expected to be fixed?

@cablecompany: @myhandle I just checked internally. It’s a weather issue. :( It may take more than a few hours. Sorry! Time for a good book? :/

@myhandle: @cablecompany LOL. Okay. Maybe it’s the universe telling me to hit the gym. LOL.

@cablecompany: @myhandle Hit the gym for me, too! Oy! ;) Sorry again!

Even if it doesn’t go as smoothly as above, it’s a MUCH better interaction. I can hang up the phone with a bit more information and reset my expectations. I also feel taken care of even if the representative couldn’t give me a definitive answer.

4. [Insert Lame Company Excuse Here]

Just recently, we had a ISP tell us that their service was bad because one of their partners (the people who owned the fibre) were playing dirty.

Really? I couldn’t give a damn. Fix our service. I don’t need to get involved in your business drama. I’ve just paid you $300 to get my internet installed. I’m not your mediator. Guess what happened? We canceled, asked for a refund, then went to the partner in question. They seemed to have the upper hand and get things done. We wish we knew that in the beginning.

Your company woes are YOUR company woes…and quite often they are the result of bad decisions/deals you’ve made (short-term thinking). Your customers don’t care, nor should they. They just want to get the stuff they paid for. Don’t make excuses. Fix it. If you can’t fix it, own up to it and refund your customers. Apologize and hope that they will forgive you and come back when you’ve fixed your stuff.

The customer experience should be seamless and simple. The mess and duct tape and hoops behind the scenes? Invisible to the customer’s eye.

5. [Silence]

It’s late 2013 and 72% of customers expect a response within the hour on Twitter from your brand after they complain. And it doesn’t really matter if it’s during business hours or not.

I, personally, have a black list of companies I will no longer buy from after getting radio silence to a concern or complaint. I’m sure I’m not alone.

Even the most angry complaints can be handled. People are just upset and need to be heard. One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard was to respond to an angry complaint like this:

A. Identify
B. Apologize
C. Assist

@myhandle: @restaurant FU! I will never eat at your awful overpriced restaurant again!

@restaurant: @myhandle Oh no! What happened?

@myhandle: @restaurant After waiting for a table FOREVER, your server treated us like crap and the food was cold by the time it was served. Grrrr.

@restaurant: @myhandle Oh man, it sounds like you had the WORST experience. It’s not what we aim for. Is there any way we can make it up to you?

@myhandle: @restaurant I don’t know. I don’t want to feel that way again. But I appreciate your response. Maybe it was just a bad night.

@restaurant: @myhandle I know you don’t want to take my word for it, but it sounds like it may have been. Let us know if you want to try again. We’ll set you up. :)

@myhandle: @restaurant Okay…well…I’ll consider it. Thanks again. I feel kind of bad for being so angry now.

@restaurant: @myhandle I would have probably felt the same. Glad I could help.

Identifying completely diffuses a situation. Trust me on this one. Even if you can’t help someone, just identifying and apologizing will help. And that customer will feel a bit bad for blowing up at you online. If they don’t come back, they’ll certainly tell the story differently. This time, you’ll be cool…not a jerk that doesn’t listen.

So there you go. Simple ways to respond to customers in a way that will help you build bonds and loyalty and probably a few more sales rather than letting angry customers fall through the cracks (and tell everyone they know about their awful experience). In fact, take some of that billboard and other outbound advertising spend and put it into your inbound/customer service channels so you can totally empower them. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but I guarantee you that these interactions will benefit you far more than that extra month on the billboard.

Source: LinkedIn

Image Source: LinkedIn

Customer Service is a Two-Way Street

The customer is always right.

It’s hard to argue with that sentiment.

After all, the most beloved businesses are those that love their customers back.

What we often forget, however, is that we, as customers, also shoulder some responsibility in the service that we receive. Customers themselves play a very important role in the customer service process, but this role often goes overlooked.

And it’s true, isn’t it? In many ways, this is why many people don’t see customer service as a 2-way street—when we don the title of The Customer, the feeling is that we shoulder no responsibility in the outcome of our experience with a company.

But is this what the interactive process of service is all about?

The Give and Take of Great Service

“It is our job to ensure you have the best experience possible. It is hard to do that when you don’t communicate with us.”

That’s a quote from Reddit’s Tales From Your Server, an online forum dedicated to those working as waiters and waitresses.

It describes how we as the consumer often don’t hold up our end of the bargain—that we must be willing to communicate with the staff or the business if some part of the consumer experience has disappointed us.

It seems that review sites like Yelp are a common source of contempt for many local small business owners for this very reason.

Review sites offer, for the first time ever, a way to leave anonymous feedback based off of a single experience (and on a whim). The sentiment from many business owners is that this encourages some customers skip the give-and-take should some part of their experience be unsatisfactory.

Instead of first notifying someone from the staff who may be able to make it right, they scurry home to write a scathing “review.”

Consider an example like this one from Reddit:

“Service was great. All the food was great. The cheesecake was square… it made me uncomfortable because it was not at all what I expected. It tasted great. But it was square. 2 stars.”

(And don’t get me started about the rectangular napkins…)

Obviously, this is one of the more ridiculous examples out there that I shared for a laugh, but believe me, it’s far from the only one of its kind. The tragedy here is that any restaurant worth its salt would have no problem rectifying the situation… even if it meant cutting the cheesecake however the customer wanted it.

Some folks take reviews like these in stride:

Come Try The Worst Meatball Sandwich That One Guy on Yelp Ever Had in His Life
…but you should understand that comments like these, where it’s apparent that the customer did little to communicate their problem, are a very real concern for business owners.

The sort of relationship between customer and business where zero communication happens about the quality of the service is not only bad for the business, it’s bad for future customers.

They won’t be hearing an honest take on the service quality, and that is perhaps the most concerning outcome of when this process is handled incorrectly.

But wait, why should the customer have any responsibility for any of this? Isn’t it the business’s job to make sure everything is perfect for paying customers?

It’s Not About Silent Consumerism

I’d like to make it clear that I’m not advocating that you become a doormat who is willing to accept bad service.

You are spending your money with these businesses, and they need to earn it.

I’m simply highlighting that we as a consumers are not passive observers without any control over our customer experience. Given the recent popularity of a post entitled Maybe You Get Bad Service Because You’re a Bad Customer, it seems this is a feeling shared by a large number of people—that sometimes the poor service you receive is a result of your own actions (or inaction).

Customer service is all about the interaction between the customer and those servicing them, and as a person—even with the vaunted title of The Customer—this interaction is your responsibility too.

Telling a business what they did wrong in a calm, collected manner (like an adult) is a win-win situation that can often easily turn a mishap around. Many companies are more than willing to make sure their customers walk out the door happy, going as far as to giving refunds, upgrades, speedy fixes, or the simple offering of a genuine apology.

In Reddit’s Small Business section, I thought this point was made abundantly clear by an owner of a local business who just couldn’t understand a recent negative review:

“I just wish people would know that this is my livelihood—your experience matters so much to me that I will do whatever I need to in order to make you happy, but that isn’t possible if you leave without saying a word.”

As critics, we all tend to suffer a little from the fundamental attribution error—the tendency to blame others on character for what we might normally blame on circumstance, e.g.:

Jack fell down the hill because he was careless.
I fell down the hill because it rained and the grass was slippery.
We have to recognize that even the best businesses are not infallible, and we shouldn’t expect them to be.

Great customer service isn’t about always being right. It’s about always being willing to make it right.

It’s very frustrating to be the customer on the receiving end of a slip-up, but without giving businesses at least that one opportunity to prove their worth and make things right, what sort of message are we sending?

Most of us do not hold ourselves to the same standard. Imagine if someone were to stop by your office when you were having a rough day, and then silently leave a 2-star review of your performance for the hour that they observed you (without telling you). Would you deem that as fair?

You needn’t pity small business owners though—it’s a tough deal, for sure—but they chose to go into business, and they should be willing to accept the responsibilities.

One of those responsibilities is realizing that first impressions matter, and that they must deliver on their far bigger role in the customer-to-business interaction, which is providing the best service possible, as often as possible. Even genuine apologies and hasty “fixes” don’t make up for a regularly shoddy experience.

But we do need to remember when we are playing the role of customer, we have some responsibility too, both in telling businesses where our experience is lacking and in voting with our dollars to make sure great service thrives.

In a recent Q&A about companies people would never use again (surprise, Comcast was mentioned the most), this comment stood out:

The common denominator [here] seems to be companies that don’t individually respond to your concerns. This actually highlights how one should behave: do reward companies that provide individual attention to their customers. Do consider their service a financial benefit.”
Your candid, constructive feedback directly to those providing you with service gives worthy businesses a chance to stay on top of what they are doing right, and come to terms with what they are getting wrong.

As the comment above mentions, it also allows you to weed out those businesses who truly do not care about their customers—if you handle your responsibilities as a customer and give them a genuine chance to make you happy, they need to seize the opportunity to do so.

Otherwise, they become deserving of whatever verbal smackdown you decide to later leave on their review page!

Originally Posted HERE

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