Customer service

In praise of the human factor

Image: Stockfresh

12 June 2015

When it comes to customer relations, there’s an old saying that’s so over-used it’s become a cliche: The customer is always right. Just because it’s a cliche, however, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Even if the customer is wrong, if you’re not working to keep him or her happy, right or wrong, that customer will be gone.

If you think losing customers because of poor service is bad, wait until you start losing out on the chance to get customers you never had because they’ve heard about that ‘bad service’.

The first thing any organisation needs to do, obviously, is to provide such a good service that the customer has no cause to make a complaint. But if a customer does make a complaint, companies need to make sure they listen to what the customer has to say. If they don’t, they could pay a heavy price. A recent survey of 1,000 members of the public in the UK by alldayPA found that if companies didn’t handle complaints properly, more than 70% of customers were likely to view this as indicative of poor customer service and of a badly run or managed company. Worse still, as many as 42% “would mentally punish a business by assuming that its products aren’t up to the same standard as those available elsewhere as a result of poorly handled calls”.

Listening would be a good start. So it’s weird that so many businesses deploy automated call handling systems that do their best to push complaints to the very back of the queue. You’d think that should be the first option a customer could choose, rather than the last.

Michael Conway, director at Renaissance, says there’s nothing worse for a customer who knows that he or she needs to speak to a customer service representative than being sent around the houses by the phone system. “It gets more and more frustrating as you wait and wait because you knew all along you needed to speak to somebody but the system keeps trying to drive you away,” he remarks.

While he accepts many companies are reluctant to include an option to speak to an operator because everyone would take it, Conway says they need to acknowledge that it can be “incredibly frustrating because you can do anything bar talk to someone”. And if you frustrate a customer, you may well lose that customer. That would be especially galling if a company makes a customer incredibly frustrated over something very small and ends up losing business as a result.

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