I am amazed at the effort companies put into building service brands on the outside, yet how fragmented they can be on the inside when it comes to customer service excellence.
When fragmentation on the inside is experienced by customers on the outside, real trouble is brewing for the brand and any changes of being known for customer service excellence.
My student, KP, bought a new notebook computer at his nearby Mega-Mall. He was already brand-loyal – this was his fourth computer in a row from the same company. He believed in the company’s commitment to customer service excellence.
The notebook came with automatic one-year coverage. KP paid $1,300 extra for an extended three-year warranty.
Unfortunately, someone smashed the window of his car and stole the new computer within a few months of purchase.
The next day, KP saw the same computer advertised in the newspaper and called the telephone number listed. The company does not sell direct to consumers, but promised to refer his request to an official “reseller.”
The reseller never called. KP contacted the company again. This time the reseller did call, but was completely unaware of the advertisement in the newspaper. KP explained exactly what he wanted and stressed his urgent need for a new machine. Two days later, the reseller sent him a quote for a completely different and more expensive computer, failing to provide customer service excellence.
KP was now desperate to reconnect and incredibly frustrated by the poor service. He bought a new computer of a different brand…from a different reseller.
What a shame! The computer company lost a lifetime loyal customer due to a weak link in the sales and service chain that shattered the perception of customer service excellence. I wonder how many other urgent sales leads are lost in this chasm of poor reseller service?
KP then called the company, asking for a refund of his extended three-year service warranty. The computer had been stolen before the warranty started, so the computer company had no financial exposure, no liability, no risk.
The company did not call back for two weeks, showing total disregard for customer service excellence. KP called again and was told his request had been referred to the Legal Department. Another week passed before the Legal Department replied, “No refund.”
KP asked to speak to the Legal Department Manager, and was refused. The company sent another notice stating, “The policy is non-cancellable. No refund.” Clearly there was no commitment to customer service excellence.
What a crying shame! This company took in $1,300 for an extended warranty they will never fulfil from a customer already saddened by the theft of his computer.
What a perfect time to show compassion and flexibility, provide a refund or at least credit towards another product or service. What an ideal moment to restore loyalty to the company by demonstrating customer service excellence. What a terrible time to count on the Legal Department if they have not been educated to help retain customers with world-class customer service.
Key learning point for customer service excellence
Your service reputation is built, or destroyed, in every moment of customer contact. If your marketing, delivery or service partners are weak, your reputation is at risk. If one department is out of touch, your service image takes the hit. Can you afford to partner with people who do not protect your reputation or strive for customer service excellence? Can you allow one department to sabotage your commitment to quality and customer care?
Action steps for customer service excellence
Make a visual map of every business partner you rely upon. Then map each department that makes contact with your customers. Now rank them all from best to worst in quality, flexibility, competence and customer care. Take a hard look at the bottom 25%. These are the weakest links that are likely to offend your customers and colleagues, and do damage to your future by shattering a track record for customer service excellence.
Don’t let it happen. Make the decision now: bring your colleagues to world class standards with service education and support. And the cynics? Throw them out.
Copyright, Ron Kaufman. Used with permission. Ron Kaufman is the world’s leading educator and motivator for upgrading customer service and uplifting service culture. He is author of the bestselling “UP! Your Service” books and founder of UP! Your Service. To enjoy more customer service training and service culture articles, visit UpYourService.com.