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As a change from puppies and kittens doing “cute” things, one of the latest tales to go viral is the story of a restaurant customer who posted a one star review on TripAdvisor. Nothing unusual about that, but what made the story go viral was the comments which accompanied the review and the response by the restaurant owner.
In an era driven by an ever-increasing awareness of the importance of customer service the tale is a salutary reminder of the fact that the customer/business relationship is a two-way affair. Both have their part to play and by working together both can gain enormously from the experience.
In fact we’ve been writing and talking a lot recently about the way in which more and more businesses are embracing the ideal of providing an exceptional customer experience. The world has moved on from the days in which parroting phrases such as “have a nice day” was sufficient to show the customer that you cared. Customers now expect businesses not only to say they care but actually to show that that is the case. Success means a long term relationship and positive recommendations on social media as well as a pleasant experience for all concerned. Failure means…just that.
But whilst some businesses are going all out to embrace innovation, to provide exceptional customer service we came across one company recently which seems to be conducting some bizarre experiment to see just how far it can push its clients before they walk. No, we’re not going to name it but suffice it to say that the lack of regard it showed its customers was breathtaking.
With promised delivery times of less than a week, the first order took nearly two months to arrive. Chasing e-mails were ignored, phone calls went unanswered until finally the company decided to get in touch to blame the delay on overseas suppliers. No matter that if the product wasn’t in stock the company should have shown that on its website and it certainly shouldn’t have taken payment up front; but even aside from that the lack of communication was poor in the extreme. A second order did arrive almost on time but at the time of writing a third order is well overdue with no explanation as yet. So why is this company still being used? The answer is simple, they have a niche offering and the person ordering likes that product.
But how long is that company going to stay in business? Sooner or later a rival will come along or its customers will feel that “enough is enough” and look elsewhere for alternatives. The company is on a one way slope and the end will be swift indeed.
Luckily companies which show contempt for their customers are rapidly becoming the exception rather than the rule. Partly in response to market forces, partly driven by the need to maintain a positive image on the internet, businesses are responding to the imperative that “how we do things” is what differentiates one company from another and customer loyalty will only attach to the business which seeks to provide an exceptional experience.
And it’s not just the smaller businesses which have embraced the idea of customer service. Go into any one of a range of new warehouse type stores and you may well find yourself helped by a smiling assistant who seemingly can’t do enough for you. Of course at the end of the visit you may be asked to fill in an online questionnaire and mention that helpful individual by name but you have received some good service, so why not?
But the revolution doesn’t stop at front line employees. Businesses have started to realise that the responsibility for exceptional customer service lies with everyone even if they have no direct contact with customers. Processes, procedures, product development and personnel; all can impact on how the customer interacts with the organisation and all can make or break the relationship.
We may smile when a customer posts a poor review and a business fights back. We may agree or disagree with the comments. Sometimes the customer is right, sometimes not. But one thing we are sure of, a business with a culture of true customer care will always win out over one which treats the customer as a throwaway commodity.