The Secret to Customer Service

iphone4 150x150 The Secret to Customer ServiceRecently we spoke to a consumer wanting to investigate a “free cell phone” offer targeted to low-income households.

The telephone provider said that “fees and service charges might apply.” The woman was wary of generating unexpected bills (and rightly so). She asked: “How much could fees be? What would trigger them?” The customer service rep. said: “I don’t know. It depends on which state you’re in.” When the woman called company offices in Washington they said: “We don’t know. We don’t have that information. There are too many variables.”

Come on, company! Does it increase marketplace trust when you hide information about your services from people who want to use them? If you’re afraid that disclosing the terms of your offer will cause people to run screaming, maybe you should change your terms. Or drop your offer. If you can’t tell what you charge people, how do you ever bill them?

Unable to Verify
Another company told my coworker that they were “unable to verify” which employee was on shift the day her package was stolen. The thief even signed for it (to make matters worse, it was a wedding present)! But the signature wasn’t my coworker’s…and she and her husband were both working when it was delivered. Come on, company!

Is it really a good business practice to remain unaware of which employee is working where on what day? And if you don’t know when your employees are working, how do you ever complete payroll?

Take Responsibility
The solution: In case number one, implement a spreadsheet so the customer can make ONE phone call to receive needed information. Empower your customer service representatives to provide…well…customer service. If there are too many variables to give specifics, give the customer a simple range: “At most it would be $15 per month.”

In case number two, maybe you don’t want to throw the substitute package carrier under the bus by giving out his name. You can still improve your customer service by 1) asking your manager to look into the matter and interview the employee who signed for the package. 2) Having the manager report back to the customer. 3) Making the customer whole for their loss. 4) Implementing a policy that your staff will request photo ID before delivering packages that require a signature.

 What is the Secret to Customer Service?
You see, I believe that outstanding (or even adequate) customer service is simple: Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. When our BBB teaches ethics to teens, we give them a situation and then change the stakeholders. If it isn’t ok to knowingly cheat a car salesman when he’s a family friend, it isn’t ok when he’s a stranger either. Now take that ethics scenario and switch your focus from the businessperson to the customer. If you would feel angry or frustrated by your company’s policy as a customer, that policy probably needs to change.

Could the secret to customer service be a simple as following The Golden Rule? I believe so.

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About Holly Doering

Holly Doering has worked for the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Washington, North Idaho, and Montana for half a decade. Her areas of expertise include the CORE Values Program (Character, Optimism, Respect, Ethics) for Teens and Charity Review as well as writing and editing. Prior to that, she has written for two newspapers, a local magazine, and taught English at the community college. She is the proud author of a short story in ZYZZYVA literary magazine and has had good luck publishing lots of poetry. Each year she rolls up her sleeves and wades into the autumn Nanowrimo writing madness and has several unfinished novels to her credit.