Are You Being Served – Customer Mis-Experiences

Sometimes organizations forget that it is the customer which is giving business and not the other way around.

I hadn’t dealt in stocks for the last few years, and I was surprised when I received a bill from my stockbroker for services that I had not availed of. I was willing to give the benefit of doubt to the broker and called their customer care.

Given the fact that I was a bonafide customer, I expected the call to be received well and my questions answered satisfactorily. The call was answered promptly by an IVR which directed me through a maze of options. After careful negotiation, I was told that I was customer no. 17. I thought I would be attended to sooner than later. 5 minutes passed, then 10, then 15, 16, 17 and it reached 20. Imagine, I was on hold for 20 minutes and I did not get a representative to speak to me. So much for customer service!

During the length of the hold, I was treated to a series of marketing pitches. Since I was on hold for a long time, I went through with them twice. I could not help but think how they could serve me more when they could not serve me better with the service I had supposedly availed of. I needed to resolve the problem and so could not hand up. And thus spent an inordinate time irritated and patiently.

A credit card company (one of the cards I use) decided that they had changed policy without even intimation. I was politely told that the terms of the redemption of reward points had changed and frankly I did not have much of a choice!

I am sure that customers the world over experience this every day. There are many redressal mechanisms but they are time-consuming. In effect, customers are bullied into submission. The power which a big organization has been misused. Sometimes organizations forget that it is the customer which is giving business and not the other way around.

But why allow such instances or issues to take place at all. Can organizations not be ‘truly’ customer-friendly? Can they not take steps to avoid this dissonance?

Here are a few proactive steps a company can take to reduce the disconnect :

 a) Honour commitments – don’t keep changing policies. Agreed market conditions change but that does not make it necessary for an organization to change policies ad hoc.

People are customers because they saw a basket of benefits. If you dilute them then you are diluting your relationship. 

 b) Don’t punish customers for being your customers – Manipulation or taking the customers for granted is a sure-shot way of creating friction and resentment.

 c) Communicate – If at all the policies have to be changed, communicate to your customers. Explain to them this is being done. Of course, there will be opposition but at least you are being transparent. 

d) Transparent & honest – be straightforward and factual on why the actions are being taken. Don’t couch with legalese and marketing jargon.

e) Don’t use each interaction as a sales pitch – Customers call when they have a problem. Don’t use that time to give endless sales pitches – they don’t want to hear it!

 f) Empower employees – Empower employees to make decisions. Most often, call executives are without any power and cannot take any decision. They are mere robots to communicate information – nothing more!

Customers remember bad service much more than the good. That is the eternal truth. An organization has to deliver every time and not rest on laurels. The repercussions of bad customer service are many. They can

a) Leave and stop using your service or product – given the competition, the options are many.

b) Complain to all and sundry – people love to complain. It is easier to complain than praise. Customers are people and hence don’t expect them to take things lightly, most of them will shout.

c) The costs associated with losing a customer are high. It is said that it takes seven times more money to get a customer than retain a new one. The negative effects of bad PR in social media cannot be quantified.

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