I think as consumers we take good service for granted and treat it as the norm. And I believe that it’s only when bad service rears its ugly head, that we are forced to move from our platform of indifference.
Take this week for example. Last Friday (27 July) my Vodafone signal at my home office disappeared. I phoned to log the problem and was told that it would be a minimum of 48 hours for them to fix the local transmitter and get things working properly again. That seemed fairly reasonable at the time so I let them get on with their 48 hour fix. But it’s now the following Thursday (2 August) and despite two additional, and increasingly irate, calls to Vodafone’s Customer Services I am no further forwards and am left feeling frustrated, disappointed and above all angry.
Unfortunately the longer things go on, the more difficult things get because the route of my anger is no longer the lack of signal, it’s now firmly directed at Vodafone’s lack of care and empathy and their inability to communicate with me (I have to call them and then wait on hold whilst they dither about) and the final insult is them not being able to tell me when I can expect the problem to be fully resolved.
So in our own businesses how should we appear and what should we do when we encounter a disappointed or angry customer, particularly if we want them to remain a customer? My tips for great customer service are as follows:
1. The customer isn’t always right - but they are always a customer
Whatever the situation is, customers should at least be treated with professional courtesy. You don’t have to agree with them – but you must always treat them with respect.
2. Hold your customers in high regard
Acknowledge that your customers have the right to be upset with you, and treat them with respect accordingly. By holding them in high regard you ensure the opportunity to repair difficult circumstances.
3. There may be more than one problem
If your customer is really upset; chances are there has been a succession of ineptitudes. It’s important to know this so you understand why the customer has reached the end of their tether.
4. Let the storm blow out
Let the customer sound off. Wait until they’ve finished being angry – never interrupt, never argue – but do acknowledge you are listening by using phrases like ‘I see and ‘of course’.
5. Be detached
Don’t take complaints personally. If you can detach yourself personally from customer criticism, you have a much better chance of looking at the problem objectively.
Use sympathetic phrases like ‘I understand how you feel’ and ‘you must be very disappointed’.
7. Don’t make excuses
Having aired their grievances, your customer should feel calmer and happier, but it’s important you don’t take a step backwards by making excuses. If it’s your business's fault, confess and apologise.
8. Offer solutions
… and if possible, allow the customer to choose what works best for them. If your company’s in the wrong, you should be the ones putting yourselves out to put things right.
9. Take ownership of the problem
Ensure the customer knows you’re taking them seriously. Give them your name and contact details. If possible, use direct numbers rather than a generic switchboard or reception number.
10. Manage expectations
Let the customer know what you’re going to do and when. A customer won’t necessarily expect you to resolve the problem there and then, but if you need to investigate, tell your customer, letting them know when you’ll be in touch. A structured plan of resolution will give them a sense that their problems are being taken seriously.
So Vodafone – read and understand my tips. As an angry customer I’m waiting for you to take me through them in a professional and responsible way in order to keep me as a customer but perhaps most importantly I now just want you to get off your bottoms and fix the problem.
To find out more about the importance of customer care when it comes to successfully marketing your business, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email firstname.lastname@example.org