Posted by Maria Dimitrova
Companies spend tremendous amounts of money on R&D, manufacturing and advertising but all these investments can be wasted if the last link in the chain – customer service, is of bad quality. There are countless examples for companies losing their clients because they weren’t treated with respect and attention before and after the sale.
The crucial effect customer service has on businesses
The Customer Experience Impact 2010 report shows the importance of customer service for businesses in exact numbers. It reveals that 82% of consumers in the U.S. said they’ve stopped doing business with a company due to a poor customer service experience. Of these, 73% cited rude staff as the primary pain point, and 55% said a company’s failure to resolve their problems in a timely manner drove them away.
Business experts say it’s much more difficult to attract a new customer than retain an existing one. Instead of investing even more capital in advertising to catch the attention of new clients, managers can take advantage of the cheapest marketing strategy – customer satisfaction, as this will increase the chances of return custom, increased purchase per customer and recommendation of the shop/ company to other people.
Word of mouth is the most powerful way to convince people to try a company’s product or service as long as the customer’s experience was good. In the opposite case, an angry or disappointed client can quickly ruin a company’s reputation using the ubiquitous social media.
Let’s look at what real life experiences determine as the best ways to lose a client:
The best ways to lose a client
- Underestimating health and safety issues
A group of friends were at a local restaurant franchise for dinner when they spotted a mouse dart out between two booths and told this to their waiter. He called the manager who explained to his clients that: “All restaurants have mice whether you see them or not. I can take care of your bill, but there’s nothing else I can do about it.” As this isn’t what you’d like to hear about the place you’re eating, the group of friends left the restaurant with the decision never to go back again.
Another example of the devastating effect this fault in company’s policy can have on the retention level of its customers is the story about the leaky plane. A passenger on a flight with a major airline was getting dripped on by moisture leaking from overhead vents. He complained about it to the stewardess. She pointed out that the last ten rows of the aircraft had paper towels stuffed into the side vents of the last two rows. The passenger said to the stewardess that she needed to report the incident but she refused to do so. She told him there was a condensation problem with the entire fleet and her report wouldn’t change anything.
The passenger spent the rest of the flight worrying about the mechanical quality and safety of the plane and he couldn’t wait to get off, resolving to never again use this airline.
- Making the customer feel nothing more than a mere target/Not listening to what the client is actually saying while giving canned replies.
A customer seethes in an Internet discussion his annoying experience when buying a book at a big bookstore chain:
He wanted to stimulate the book retail business and decided to purchase a book from a brick and mortar shop rather than ordering it from Amazon even though this meant that he would pay $34 instead of $18 online.
When he went to the counter to pay, the employee asked him if he wanted a membership card to save 20% of the price. The client refused but the shop-assistant wouldn’t accept “no” for an answer. During this single transaction, he asked the same question three more times and his words contained the implicit criticism that the choice of the person to refuse a membership card was illogical and silly.
The customer says:
” Anyway, enough is enough! I know that these stores and hence employees are under pressure to sign up new members, but I am tired of being on the receiving end of their sales pitches. Moreover, I am tired of their abrasive and sometimes belligerent manners when I repeatedly refuse. Their policy of sacrificing respectful behavior for the new member roll-call is unacceptable to me and to many in my acquaintance.”
Not taking into account people with disabilities, not designing a layout for parents with prams or lack of good communication with people of a non-English speaking background means losing these potential clients.
Here is an example of how a girl felt discriminated for being overweight first by the company producing the products and then by the manager of the shop:
“A few years ago, a friend [and I] were shopping at the mall. We decided to go into the boutique of a famous producer of underwear [to] browse. I was overweight at the time. I had seen a really nice bra and panty set, and I said to my friend, ‘They shouldn’t be so discriminatory. They should make this in our size.’ I then heard the manager tell us, ‘Maybe if you lose some weight we would have things that fit you.’ [oh that's mean, but it tickles :)) ed.] That was the last time I was in shop of this company, and I have no intention of going back in one.”
- Not paying enough attention to the client/not respecting their time
Another common situation when people take the decision to cross the name of a restaurant or café off their list of options is when they have to wait for half an hour to receive a menu or for the waiter to appear so they can pay the bill.
If you are in a hurry and you’ve entered a big store in search of a certain product but you can’t find a customer service representative anywhere around the shelves of the necessary product so you can ask for some information, this will make you think twice before choosing this store the next time you want a fast and prompt service.
An example of utter ignorance of client’s needs:
“On our honeymoon, flying on a plane from Christchurch to Singapore. We thought we’d support the national airlines which wasn’t doing too well. I was thirsty so the buzzer was pressed to call for a steward. Ninety minutes passed, a blonde with pouted lips turned up at my seat and disabled the call. No questions asked. No drink either. No apologies. No upgrades. No acknowledgement. Terrible, terrible…”
- Becoming a pest for the customers because of too much attention
This also makes the customer feel as a mere target despite being done in a much more subtle and polite way. It includes sending letters and emails containing offers and information. Even if the customer has given their permission to receive such letters, when it happens too often, it turns into a nuisance. The balance should be kept between kindly keeping in touch with the customer to court them and cluttering their mail box.
A person offers his opinion on the issue:
“These businesses send you three emails the first day, at least one or two the subsequent days and then keep up a daily stream of emails, texts and other forms of contact. Their clients may feel flattered initially, but after a while, they burn out from all of the focus and attention. Pull back a bit on the efforts to stay in touch. Allow customers to come to you through reading your blog or articles, with only a few direct contacts thrown in, rather than constantly pushing your message onto them.”
- Negatively dealing product returns
This is one of the most frequent complaints on the net concerning customer service.
I, myself had a disappointing experience recently in one of the shops of a clothes retailer. I bought a jacket but when I was back at home in front of the mirror I found out that it would have been better if I had purchased it one size smaller. I took the jacket back the next day. I hadn’t taken away the label and I had the receipt with me. When I asked to exchange it with a smaller jacket, the shop assistant looked at me with demonstrative annoyance and said:”You are so picky!”
I decided not to let her rudeness affect my mood or patience. It turned out that they didn’t have the size I wanted. I asked if they could call the other shop the company owned to check if they had one in stock. Her reply was that it was against the company’s policy to exchange an item bought from one place with a product from the other shop they had and refused to call. While I was leaving the shop, she saw me out with the words: “We are obviously too polite here and because of that customers have started getting on our nerves”.
I caught the bus to home but due to my overall negative impression from the shop assistant, I had the feeling that she might not have told me the truth. I changed the bus and went to the other shop of this company. The moment I entered the shop I was met by a very warm smile and when I asked if I could change the jacket with a smaller one from their shop, she just said: “No problem”.
I have no intention of going back to the first shop as I want to be treated honestly and with respect.
- Managers reprimanding employees in front of customers
This type of behavior is unacceptable for many clients who want to stimulate the business of a company which has a positive attitude towards its staff and solves any problems that may arise in a mature, respectful and intelligent way.
- When the basics are lacking – saying “hello”, “thank you”, “good-bye” with a genuine smile
It’s much better when our interactions with people bring about our sunny mood and provoke a genuine smile. It may be a cliché, but it works – politeness makes the world seem a better place. If your customers leave your company with a lift in the mood, they will come back since the positive experience adds further value to the products you offer to them.
Unfortunately, in the location where I live, these basics in customer service are a rare luxury. Hopefully, the culture will change for the better when managers and staff realize how beneficial for the business and the workplace atmosphere this attitude is. [ed. I doubt it. I also live in this area!]