Customer Service – Getting The Basics Right

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Many organisations – and organisational leaders – like to talk about how they are focused on Customer Service, while merely paying lip-service to the customer’s real needs. The sad fact is that, as customers, we increasingly come across organisations and service levels that are simply deficient in their delivery. And, in today’s age of Social Media, we waste no time in airing our opinions to any one who will listen – taking to our Twitter or Facebook accounts to warn friends and strangers of the particular brand/product/service.

Here are some recent examples I grappled with, as a customer. Mind you, this is just a random sample of one month of my own experiences…

 

Example 1: I ordered some poster prints from a printing service I’ve used on many occasions – PrintVenue.com. The prints came a few days later, but I was disappointed to see that each one was printed with errors, with their margins cut off despite being intact in the files that were uploaded. Multiple emails and tweets happened in the 8 days that followed, asking me to send snapshots and wait upto 48 hours for a response after each email, including escalating the matter to a specific id in the organisation (thanks to my tweets!). I was clear in my communications with them from the start that this was a time-critical activity for me and, since I now have to choose another printing service, I would like a refund. But, at the end of more than 8 days of to and fro, I received an email response stating that at most they will be able to re print any one of the posters. No refund was possible. I had no choice but to reply to them saying they just lost a customer for life.

If PrintVenue had chosen to retain a happy customer, instead, it would do so with damages to the tune of Rs. 534/-

 

Example 2: I wanted to order some chicken biryanis from a new app/outlet in my area called Charcoal Biryani. At that particular time, their app wasn’t loading up, so I headed on to Swiggy (the food delivery app) to see if the same outlet was available there. It was, so I ordered two biryanis for the kids at home. The delivery was prompt, but we found that each pack had only one small piece of chicken in it, which was not acceptable given the price and the description. Since I always believe in feedback, I called the outlet to inform them of the incident, and was pleasantly surprised to hear that someone would get in touch with me soon to resolve the matter. Someone did call in an hour and offered to send replacements, thanking me for the feedback. I said that we were done with dinner, and would probably use their services at another time, but it would be good to get a refund for this deficiency of product. Again, to my surprise, they agreed to process the same. OK, it took some days and some messages to figure out that Charcoal will only be able to refund my Swiggy account (since my order was placed via Swiggy), after which the Swiggy team will credit it to my Swiggy wallet. If I had known what the process would entail, I would have happily taken up the offer of Charcoal sending me replacements. However, as a customer, I was happy to see that the food outlet valued my experience as a customer, instead of choosing to make numerous excuses or hide behind unfriendly processes.

In this case, Charcoal did prioritize Customer Experience and learn from constructive feedback, at a cost of approx. Rs. 512/-

 

In both cases, the amounts are not going to make a dent to these organisations. Nor would they add significantly to my monthly income or spends. But, it’s the principle of the matter.

Let’s see it from a different lens. I was speaking with a freelance professional who works in Shipping Logistics, and he was complaining about how his industry is cut-throat in pricing, and the service he offers is practically a commodity. How, then, can he improve his revenues without adding manpower and growing the amount of volume he currently handles?

I spoke with him about understanding his customers’ pain points and addressing them in any way he could. When shipping large volumes that cross the world’s oceans, what is lacking is information at every milestone for the customer in question. Can he not introduce a simple SMS system to inform his customers of the shipment’s progress at each key milestone? He replied that in his industry that would in fact constitute a “superior” service standard, as compared to his peers who don’t even do that much. If he did that consistently, continuing to add value to his customers in numerous ways, there is no doubt in my mind that he would become the preferred service provider one day.

When it comes to Customer Service, getting the basics right should not be considered optional by any organisation / brand / product / service. If you are wondering how to get started, here are five pointers to keep in mind…

  1. Know your customer and understand their needs
  2. Stay open to genuine feedback from your customer
  3. Be receptive to customer inputs, and do what you can to make every interaction a positive one
  4. Be aware of all the touchpoints that your customer interacts with, and ensure a consistent experience
  5. Especially in the Service context, keep your customer informed about progress (or delays!) at every relevant stage

The solution is not always complex, nor one that would require significant resources. All that is needed is the right mindset.

Do we really care about the customer? Are we – at each level – empowered to take decisions that affect our customers positively or negatively? And if we are, do we keep the larger context in mind or choose the penny-wise-pound-foolish option? As Jan Carlzon wrote in ‘Moments of Truth’, a brand (or product or service) is experienced by your customer across millions of “moments of truth” – each can make or break the organisation. Isn’t it time we paid heed and did the right thing?

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