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My children will tell you that I am the worst person to give poor customer service. Why? Because I build customer service organizations for a living. And when I am on the receiving end of a bad experience, it is as if I am critiquing a paper in my head while I’m reading it. In a world of growing expectations and unrealistic demands, we have to remember first to be a good customer.
I see the process inefficiencies in restaurants, the lack of listening to the customer during support calls, and the inappropriate responses given to unhappy customers at the local telco store. Instead of getting irate and demanding that something is done, I usually opt for a more proactive approach.
Failure to Listen to the Customer
For example, at a recent trip to CVS, my debit card did not go through on the first attempt – it could have been for a variety of reasons but I knew there was money in the account so I had to assume either I typed in the wrong passcode or there was some type of transmission error.
The clerk at the store then asked me if I wanted to run the transaction again as a debit and I replied “yes.” When she ran the transaction again, she ran it as a credit despite my request. When I questioned why she did that, she replied, “What difference does it make anyway?” I waited until I was done with the transaction, and had my purchase in my hands before I said, “There could be 10 reasons why I wanted you to do the transaction as a debit, but the most important was to figure out if something was wrong with the card or my account. More importantly, why did you ask me for my preference if you were just going to do it the way you wanted to? In this situation, you created a negative experience for your customer.”
This is an example of when I could have said nothing and just left OR I could have lost my temper with the clerk. Most important to me was to describe why the experience was not positive for me and what the clerk could do to prevent it in the future.
Stop Placating the Customer
Customers have learned, mostly because many businesses encourage it, that if they complain loudly and often enough that they will be offered something as a means to change the experience. Raise your hand if you have ever received a free dessert at a restaurant after poor service. I have a family member who does this all the time – complain about something often enough and maybe we will get something for free. Unfortunately, management and the customer fail to fix the problem. Instead, we are placating the customer to make the issue go away.
On another occasion, I had a terrible restaurant experience. The service was very slow, none of the food arrived at the same time so everyone was eating at a different time, and the food was cold when it arrived. During this experience, I witnessed many things that went wrong. Instead of demanding something during the meal, I waited until I had paid and then asked to speak to the manager. I explained that this was one of my family’s favorite restaurants but tonight the service was terrible. I explained many of the issues that occurred during the evening and in reply, the manager asked if they could buy the family dessert. I replied, “We have already finished our meal. What I want you to do is fix the problem because we want to come here again.”
Explain Why if You Want to Remain a Customer
Now, these are two experiences that could have ended very differently. But instead of getting angry or expecting something in return, I took the time to help the vendors that I do business with to understand why I had a poor experience.
I am also the first one who will pull the manager aside to tell them of exceptional service. You would be surprised how infrequently managers are ever called to a table to hear that a customer is happy. In these cases, I make sure during the evening or interaction that I remember exactly why the service was exceptional – because I want the manager to hear the exact behaviors that make the customer happy and why.
The next time you are a customer, take a second to respond in a proactive way to the service you are provided. It may not always result in positive change, but for certain it will begin to change the role of the customer in our service culture from demanding to participating. The best way to show a company who consistently gives you poor service – buy that service from somewhere else. But first, be a good customer.