What happened to good customer service? Seriously. Recently, I have personally experienced several instances of just plain horrible customer service. I’ve never been one to say that the customer is always right, because, let’s face it, there are some pretty special people out there. However, I do believe that it is better for a company to make it a practice to generally give the customer the benefit of the doubt. It seems to me that many companies today are so worried about their own bottom lines, that they make that a priority over good customer service. Here is a brief summary of a couple of my recent experiences–and hang with me, because I’m going to make a point (and it’s not to just complain):
Example #1: Recently, we changed our internet provider because of some ongoing internet issues. When we switched, I called the first company we used to cancel our service. We were told our service was disconnected and told we’d be receiving a refund. Found out over a week later our service was never cancelled, so I called back again to have them cancel it. This new customer service agent assured us he got it cancelled, but couldn’t give us the refund we were promised before and basically said there was no way to refund us for the week our service was supposed to be cancelled. To make a long story short, I spent more than an hour on the phone with FOUR different reps to solve the issue. A couple were sympathetic, but said they were powerless to change it. The third one explained they couldn’t make my refund retroactive because they had no record of my call (Basically, the original rep I talked to didn’t do her job and made no notes on my account about why I called and didn’t complete my cancellation.) Despite me having my phone records to prove I called when I said I did, I was repeatedly told they couldn’t refund me because they had no record of my call.
So I asked, “let me see if I understand–you can’t refund me because you don’t believe I called when I said I did.”
“Oh no, sir, that’s not it. I just can’t refund you because we have no record of your call[!]”
So I asked to speak to someone else and thankfully, this person knew how to do her job and fixed the issue (and found a record of my call!) within 5 minutes. (She couldn’t understand why the others I had talked to couldn’t solve my issue…) So I was thankful I got it fixed, but only after being inconvenienced spending over an hour on the phone to fix an issue that never should have occurred.
Example #2: Just today I went to a well known fast food chain to buy a sandwich for lunch. My total was a bit over $6 and I paid with a $20 bill. As the hostess was giving me my change, I realized that I had a couple extra $1 bills and just as she was closing the money drawer, I asked her if I could give her my $1’s and get a $5 bill back instead. She said she would have to ask her manager. So she did and she came back to tell me that she wasn’t allowed to “make change.” I was astonished. I had just bought a sandwich at a restaurant I go to at least once a week, sometimes more, and the manager wouldn’t allow her to swap some $1’s for a $5! It wasn’t like I had just walked in off the street and wanted some change. I walked away shaking my head.
This evening when I got home, Elly had asked me if I had heard about the guy that was dragged off the United Airlines flight. Well, between watching the Master’s this past weekend and coaching my golf team in two tournaments the last two days, I didn’t know anything about it. So I did a brief search online to find out more about it because what she told me sounded so appalling. After reading a bit, I was even more surprised to hear that the CEO of United never admitted any wrong-doing by the company.
Thus the reason for this post: What happened to good customer service?
Do companies that have bad customer service realize what they are doing to their future profits? In trying to protect their bottom lines, ironically, they are pushing customers away. I agree that businesses shouldn’t allow people to take advantage of them, but that doesn’t mean they should’t give their customers good service or the benefit of the doubt. Additionally, I remember hearing a statistic a few years ago that people are 11 times more likely to share a bad experience, which could possible translate to even less business in the long term.
There are a lot of companies that seriously need to read How to Win Friends and Influence People, or The Speed of Trust. Treating customers as if they are untrustworthy is never a way to earn more of their business. Also, from a profits standpoint, a customer should never be looked at based on how much they spend on one occasion, but rather how much they spend over the long term. The sandwich shop I visited today may not care about swapping some bills for a customer that just occasionally comes in to buy a sandwich. But if they realized I was a regular customer, they would realize they had a lot more to lose by not providing good customer service. But the point is also this: you may not always know who the regulars are or not. So why not treat every customer with great customer service. Chances are if they’re not a regular customer yet, excellent customer service just might make them a regular and the company will profit more in the long term.