customer service

trustAre there suppliers that you fully trust to always get it right and have your interests at heart? I’m guessing they are few and far between. But give it some thought – who do you really trust as a supplier? Then ask yourself – are they perfect? Have they never, ever made a mistake – is that why you trust them? Or if they have dropped the ball in the past did they put things right to your satisfaction? Is that why you trust them?

It seems to me that we trust suppliers that either have never made a mistake or because if they do, they put it right. Immediately, without complaint and whilst smiling. For example, a couple of weeks ago I was with some friends at a restaurant and we had wine with the meal. Two of my friends took a sip of their wine and thought it didn’t taste right. They thought the wine was corked. They called the waiter over and mentioned the problem to him. The waiter didn’t take a sip of the wine, didn’t challenge them at all. He simple apologized, took the wine away and brought a fresh bottle to our table. That’s perfect customer service. As you can imagine this restaurant already had a great reputation – but now it’s even better.

Earlier this week I updated an application that I have on my phone for storing sensitive information. I’ve used this program in various forms over the last 15 years or so. I keep all my passwords, logon details, licence numbers etc. in it. And up until last week I trusted the suppler. The update to their application deleted all my data. Yup, it deleted everything. Gone, kaput and no more. An email to their support team brought the response along the lines “sorry, there was a bug. We’ve fixed the problem so it won’t happen again. But we can’t get your data back”. So 15 years of trust and customer / supplier relationship has just gone out the window. Can I trust them not to do this again? Or could they make another mistake and allow the whole world access to my sensitive data due to another bug?

How many of your customers trust you explicitly? Is it because you have never made a mistake, or is it because you clean up the mess if you do? But see how easy it is to lost trust with a supplier.

I’m currently sitting on the fence. Do I look for an alternative application or give my current supplier the benefit of the doubt?

What would you do?

good_bad_uglyToday at TLC World HQ I had a day at the desk. Tweetdeck is up on one of my screens as I worked and prepared for a couple of meeting later in the week. In the space of a few hours I read Tweets (amongst many others) that covered a wide range of customer service experiences. Some people happy, some complaining and some even taking legal action.

Social networks can make or break a reputation pretty quickly. No longer do we need to wait until a story gets into the press to see how the world works and what the public think… we can simply open up Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and see what inspires, or annoys people.

And the whole world is looking over our shoulder at what we like & dislike and making their purchase decisions accordingly.

Good

Here Lego are likely to have a customer for life and enhance their reputation across Twitter. This is more than ‘good’ customer service, I’d rate this as ‘great’ customer service.

Bad

There are so many examples of bad customer service. It seems we are more likely to share and signpost these experiences than good ones. This article was signposted in one of the Tweets I saw: A third of consumers  have left a supplier after bad service.

Ugly

Bad turns to ugly if the problems are not addressed. Here, poor service from Salesforce.com leads a customer to taking legal action.

 

Increasingly, I don’t think I would work with a new supplier / service until I have checked out what people are saying on social networks.

What is the world saying about you on there? 

 

A couple of days ago British Gas learned what it costs to have poor customer service.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-14303264

The story is a catalogue of disasters (or opportunities) for British Gas who have been fined £2.5 million as a result of them not listening to, and acting upon, customer complaints. Just think about that for a moment…. £2.5 million pounds taken out of profits because of not engaging properly with their customers.

This fine has happened because British Gas operate in a regulated market and Ofgen can levy fines for this type of behaviour. But what happens in those markets that are not regulated – like the environment for most businesses? Chances are one or two things (maybe both) can happen. First off – as we are British – we tend to complain to everyone except the folks who might be able to address the problem. If we’ve had a bad meal in a restaurant, we are more likely to tell our family and friends afterwards than the staff at the time. Apparently this is because we don’t like to “make a fuss” as my Mother used to put it. The other thing that will happen is we are unlikely to go back to that restaurant. So the restaurant never gets to hear of the problem or get a chance to put things right.

With British Gas, they did get to hear of the problems and – when they thought the matter had been dealt with – closed the file. It didn’t matter if the customer was still unhappy and thought that more could be done, as far as British Gas were concerned is was game over. So lots to put right with British Gas at the moment to ensure they do not get additional fines. But, at least it’s been brought to their attention (and ours) and they have the opportunity to do something about it.

So, how open are you with the problems that are raised by your customers and how are they handled? Even if you do not operate in a regulated market – you can still be “fined” by the customer as a result of lost business and decreased reputation.

And what are you doing to make sure that feedback, improvements and comments are welcomed and acted upon?

Or, are are you hoping that your customers are like my Mum and will rarely “make a fuss”?