I recently had one of my worst customer service experiences, if not the worst. It all started with the inability to connect to the Internet at a business that my family operates. It meant the business could not accept credit cards so every minute of downtime literally was costing money as customers walked away one after the other.
We called the Internet service provider and requested a visit from a technician. Everything would work on one computer but not another. It just so happened that the computer it worked on was the technician’s. So, after seeing it working on his, he shared there was not a problem on their end and left.
I continued to troubleshoot and even seek outside help from other “techies” I know. After identifying the potential issue, I called the service provider back with our findings.
The same technician returned my call, sharing that he already visited the business and concluded it was not their problem. With some arm twisting, he returned. He again shared that it works on his laptop and asked me what we wanted to do.
“We don’t run the store on your laptop,” I said. “I need it to work on these computers.”
The technician became upset and confrontational and eventually left – without resolving anything. I couldn’t believe it.
It proved to be a valuable learning experience for me as a leader at Marco. We have shifted to a customer-centric country. Most businesses, like ours, are defined by the service we offer and each experience matters.
When customers have good experiences, they may tell one person. But when it is a bad experience, they tell the whole world with the help of social media and other online tools. Look at the recent customer service issue at United Airlines. A customer was forcibly removed and it was all captured and viewed online - in real-time. Following the incident, United faced a public relations firestorm and lost over a billion dollars in company stock value.
As organizations, we can change the social tide. When customer service goes wrong, we have an opportunity to make it right and potentially win a customer for life. At Marco, we have achieved a 93 percent recommend rate from our customers. We don’t expect perfection, but we do expect correction. Here are the lessons I have learned:
- Leverage tools that provide data on improving customer service.
This needs to be a formal process – and can be done in “real-time.” It’s becoming more common to send an email after a service interaction. At Marco, we use an industry tool to email a quick visual survey with a happy face, straight face and sad face to users of our Support Desk services to assess how we’re doing. There are a variety of softwares on the market, industry specific and general in nature, to tap into.
You also can be a little “old school” here. At Marco, we get a far higher response rate when we mail paper surveys monthly for projects completed with a self-addressed stamped envelope. No matter the delivery method, take time to customize the survey to reflect your organization’s needs and expectations.
- Show your customers you hear them.
That would have helped me in my personal experience with the service provider. Customers are not always right, but they always deserve to be heard. By giving them the opportunity and responding with your corrective actions, you can turn an unsatisfied customer into a champion for your business. We have seen it happen at Marco. Doing what’s right when you have done wrong wins customer loyalty.
- Take immediate action on the results.
Establishing a formal process around customer service that falls below the line may be one of the most important steps an organization can take. When we receive a survey response that a customer would “not recommend” Marco, we initiate what we call a Corrective Action Request (CAR) that requires us to call the customer within 24 hours. During this process, we listen and pinpoint the problem areas. In many cases, our CEO will follow up with customers to ensure they were taken care of to their satisfaction. Marco’s executive team also is accountable to the results and reviews bi-monthly the status and resolution of each CAR.
- Improve the experience for everyone.
Don’t isolate the problem and resolve it. Look beyond it for opportunities to improve the customer experience for everyone. This is where a continuous improvement process can come in. We have held strategic planning events on customer service issues and implemented quality initiatives to improve performance. Don’t underestimate the power of measuring customer satisfaction over time at your organization and against benchmarks in your industry. Map your progress, identify any gaps and set an expectation for continuous improvement.