You Can't Polish a Turd: On Customer Service

Over the past month I’ve had some terrible customer service experiences. I hate bloggers who rant and penalize any company daring to cross them. The reality is I was hoping to contrast what I write to companies who have provided me solid service lately but unfortunately, there were none. We hear about the legendary service of Zappos.com but rarely some simple, easy steps you can apply. Jason Cohen of A Smart Bear points out that Technical Support is Sales. For a non-technical company customer service *is part of sales and marketing. Stop slashing, start spending and differentiate yourself. Being friendly is not enough, if there is no substance or real support you are simply treading water.

Rule 1: Answer the damned phone

It seems simple but don’t keep people waiting on hold for 30+ minutes (as I recently encountered with Fido). Yes, there are temporary delays sometimes but long waiting periods every time is a sign of inefficiency. If everybody calls at 1pm cross-train workers to answer phones at 1pm. Why is it that we always forget that customers are busy people too? Answer the damned phone quickly. You will be surprised at surprised and happy customers are.

Rule 2: Customer service is understanding

I’ve had a 6 week debacle with DHL Canada recently. After pre-paying tax on a package the delivery agent refused to acknowledge the receipt and charged taxes twice. The same day I am told it would take ‘at least 6 weeks for a refund. You may hate refunding but a refund is not always a lost customer, it is your last impression in a single transaction . Circumstances change, customers come back but if your process is inefficient they may not.

6 weeks, 5 telephone calls and 15 e-mails later (all of them auto generated and unhelpful) I am finally speaking to somebody of power at DHL; I was trying to be nice and not issue a charge back. I explained my position to the operator, provided evidence, stated the refund was not yet received. I was advised to fax in credit card statements and wait a further 2 weeks for processing. Only after advising the operator of my intention to file a disputed transaction if the issue was not resolved today did I get anywhere which leads me to:

Rule 3: Being proactive (and look company wide)

If you see a customer has been struggling for some time solve the issue for them. Why delay? If you can see future issues help solve them now. Help the customer when you can. Be proactive about solving their problems and they will be happy.

When delivering a package at FedEx my pre-paid label was not recognized so a replacement was printed which had the same issue. Without a cell phone I was instructed to go home and call the FedEx hotline while standing inside a FedEx store. As a customer my understanding only goes so far, ‘not my department’ is not helpful when I am standing in a FedEx location.

Rule 4: Have substance (and don’t lie)

HTC was going to be my example of great customer service. The reps are proactive. They are friendly and my call is always answered within minutes yet the broke the carnal rule; if you promise something, deliver it.

After two weeks of having my phone being gone for a 7 day repair I got sick of calling the hotline and receiving notices of escalation with no call back. I’d always been told my phone was in the Texas facility and in queue yet on my escalation the manager admitted the phone was lost and, more importantly, they were not yet sure it was in Texas.

I understand phones get lost, be honest about it. I understand sometimes a delay takes longer than expected, be honest about it. If you promise a call back deliver it. In other words, stick to your word.

Why is this so hard?

Any self-respecting person is nodding their head in agreement. We all understand this. We all hate it. Even the workers / managers understand this. Why do we keep dealing with it? Make a statement and make calling your hotline a pleasure, not a chore, and watch your customer satisfaction and referrals skyrocket.