When was the last time you went into a store, ate at a restaurant or called customer service for assistance and had an absolutely horrible experience? I bet you can come up with that answer in about a second and a half. Not only can you come up with it, you could give me every little detail relating to it. Now think about the last time you had an experience that made your day. A little more difficult isn’t it.
The old saying goes, “A happy customer will tell one person and an unhappy customer will tell 10 people”. Can your company afford to have those 10 people then tell another and another? In most cases we would assume that answer is no. As a leader how often do customer service issues get elevated to your level? When they do how do you handle them? Of course your first response should be to handle the issue for your customer, but what do you do next? You mean there’s a next step, you are saying to yourself, but I handled the issue. What you must understand is that if this issue was so big that it got to your level there are many more that were never escalated.
Bill Gates says, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Once this experience has happened you need to take it as an opportunity to re-evaluate your company, team and processes. Was this an issue between one member of that team and a customer who might have been having a bad day? If so, by all means, sit down with that person and talk about ways they could handle the situation differently should it arise again. Was it a case where you might have a bigger issue with your product or service? If so, this might take the team approach to fix it. Maybe you need to get a group together to contact your other customers proactively and let them know of a potential issue, thus reducing the pain for your customers.
As small business owners, we thrive on referrals, we count on our clients to tell their clients and business associates how we were able to assist them with their needs and what a great job we did. Many small businesses have a limited marketing budget and struggle with ways to get their names out in the community, with that in mind, this positive press is worth more than money can buy. It will allow your growing business to become the “go to” company for your product or service. This doesn’t mean there weren’t bumps along the way to success with this client, but what it does mean, is that it was handled quickly and professionally and with results that pleased the client. In fact, often times it’s just such a bump they will speak about and the professionalism with which your team handled it.
I realize that sometimes these bumps can be very costly to correct. For example, if all of a sudden you realize the widget you have just shipped 10,000 of has an issue, what is the net effect to your bottom line if all 10,000 have to be replaced? A better line of thinking would be what happens when my customer gets their order and then delivers it to their customer and then they give it as a gift to their sister. No matter what the cost, isn’t it easier to handle the problem immediately before it gets down to that level? Look at the current crisis in the toy industry, with lead based products being used on toys. Major manufacturers have had to step up and deal with recalls of a huge number of products. This has caused the public to become concerned with not only the limited toy recalls that directly affect them, but the manufacturers and the stores they purchased them at.
Now, I’m not saying they knew about the issues and did nothing about them, but what I am asking is wouldn’t it have been easier to notify their retailers and let them know what the issue was before it made its way to the public at large? In the past several years toy makers have seen the decline in toys sales and the increase of electronics to younger and younger age groups. This will not help. So let me ask this, now do you think it’s worth what ever the amount to fix the 10,000 widgets immediately, no matter the cost?
Customer service is the key to success that many people talk about and never follow through on. It’s what sets apart the successful company from the fly by night. Why? Because if you plan to be here for the long run so will your reputation and it costs far more to repair than to build. Customer service is our number one priority, now mean it.