Not long ago, I ordered cable service from a large national provider. The cable guy showed up on time, and the set-up went as scheduled. The next day, I found that the cable and internet were not working properly. I called the company only to get a busy signal. After an hour of repeated calls, I was on hold for about 10 minutes before I reached an operator, who simply dismissed my complaint by telling me I was mistaken and the cable company doesn’t even service my area. It took me another two days before I got the situation straightened.
Not long ago, a fraudster walked up to an ATM at a branch of a well-known bank, fed it a fake debit card, and took out $1,000 from my checking account. The next day, I called my bank, which surprisingly had an easy-to-navigate automated system. The customer service personnel with whom I spoke was sincere, apologetic, and understanding. By the end of the five minute call, not only did I regain full trust in my bank, but I also had $1,000 credited to my account. Unlike the cable company, it was evident my bank, who already had my money mind you, were concerned about my future business and my impression of them.
The economic benefits of outsourcing are contentious and will not be discussed here, but what is important is the customer service companies provide. The bank already had my money, yet they were still interested in helping me, and I left the call 100% satisfied. The cable company, however, had yet to receive my money but was still rude and unhelpful.
While Richard Pachter’s Miami Herald article promotes Joseph Jaffe’s new book Flip the Funnel: How to Use Existing Customers to Gain New Ones, it raises some worthwhile points to consider on service. Companies invest lots of time and money on advertising and marketing so we’ll give them our money. But once they have our money, what then? There’s nothing to stop the company from turning around and ignoring us once we’ve made our purchase, but good companies know better. Customer retention is vital, especially in turbulent economic times. Every positive interaction with a customer has the potential to let he/she advocate and encourage others to look at your company. Likewise, the same is true for bad service. I can’t promote my bank enough, and I can’t deride my cable company enough.
Jaffe’s book notes that engaging guests is the challenge. The product is secondary. The problem of course is getting people to know of the human experience you offer. First-hand experiences of hardship in a looming recession have affected our outlook on the world, leaving us cynical and defensive as customers. While I’m not promoting Jaffe’s book, I find the spirit of it significant. Good customer service seems a given, an obvious solution to retaining, obtaining and accommodating guests. The proliferation of books, like Jaffe’s, suggests that businesses are still oblivious to the obvious.