Silence. Nothing. My blood pressure starts to rise and I feel completely helpless. I send another email. A few days later – another. Nothing. I look at the company’s website again – nope no phone numbers.
The delivery tracking link isn’t working either.
I resort to Twitter and Facebook; finally someone responds to my Facebook Messenger request for assistance. It’s taken a week simply to get someone to acknowledge my emails regarding a delivery that hasn’t arrived. Unfortunately, this is not the point in the story where the issue is resolved. Four weeks since my credit card was debited, I’ve had to go out and buy a stop-gap amount of the product elsewhere (it’s a necessary item) and today I was told it would be “shipped again” – for the third time.
I’m an existing customer with a standing order, usually it arrives as scheduled, no problem. And I’m happy with the product itself, that’s why I’ve subscribed. However, this time, something has gone majorly wrong at the warehouse – a number of times, and almost in the last mile*. And I get it, issues occur. But what I’m unhappy about is how the issue is being dealt with. Every day I feel less and less valued as a customer. And more and more frustrated.
And it’s not the only example of bad customer service I’ve experienced lately.
Another, a “refurbishment” of an item has involved hour long waits on hold, no follow up, and a supposed 2 week turnaround that turned into 5 weeks of inconvenience, a mess up with the invoicing, and when the items were finally returned – there’s some minor damage. When I report the damage – someone will respond to me in 5 days! What?! Five days to speak to a (already inconvenienced) customer about an issue? And yes, I had to chase them up.
In both these cases the organisations have great products, and the pre-sales service is good, it’s how they handle an issue – the after sales service, where they’re dropping the ball.
I finally got my items and the issues were resolved but it felt like I was doing all the work.
The real test of good customer service is when something goes wrong. Issues do happen; power goes out, deliveries go astray, employees take sick leave in the middle of your busiest week ever, dogs eat project notes. However how you handle it will determine whether your clients understand and notch it up to “one of those unfortunate things” or are left feeling angry and frustrated.
Handling an issue well could result in a client becoming an even greater advocate, handle it badly and they’ll tell everyone else about the bad experience and you may lose more than one client.
How’s your customer service? Not just the service you provide when everything is on track, but the service you provide when resolving an issue. Do you do a great job winning new clients, only to end up losing them in the last mile?
Here are five things to think about when it comes to handling customer service issues:
If something has gone wrong and it’s going to impact your clients – tell them. Contacting a client to let them know for example, that your short-staffed and the project due to be delivered next Monday is now going to be delayed until Wednesday is far preferable than an angry client calling on Monday afternoon wanting to know what’s happened. They may still be unhappy, but they won’t be as unhappy as they would be if you didn’t forewarn them. This also gives you an opportunity to discuss options together to minimise the impact of an issue.
Provide timeframes – give the client an indication on when they can expect a resolution.
Facilitate two-way communication
Sometimes issues occur that you’re just not aware of and the first you hear about it is from the client. Make it easy for them to contact the right person for resolution. Do they know who to contact, when? Do you have a documented escalation process in place? Do clients have ready access to phone numbers, email addresses, social media channels?
No matter the communication channel provided to clients, there needs to be a response and the response needs to be timely. Always. If clients can message you through social media and you’re not monitoring that channel, that’s a recipe for disaster that can have a ripple effect across your clients (and prospects). If a client sends an email and doesn’t get a response, that’s an unhappy client who’s unhappiness has just escalated 10 fold.
Keep the client updated; if the developer has identified the bug but it’s going to take another 24 hours to rewrite the program, tell your client. Knowing what’s going on reduces anxiety for your client and enables them to plan and keep their own stakeholders informed.
And once the issue has been resolved, let the client know what you’re doing to mitigate the risk of it occurring again. Discuss with the client how they felt about the process and whether things could be handled differently next time.
And a little bit of neuroscience to finish with
In the brain we have chemical releases (neurotransmitters) that send signals to our nerve cells. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter of desire, when there is a cue from the environment that you’re going to get a reward, dopamine releases in response. However, if you’re expecting a “reward” (say a package in the mail or new website up and running on Monday), and you don’t get it, dopamine falls steeply.
This is not a pleasant feeling, in fact it feels a lot like pain.
So, when your client is expecting a service, product or outcome that is not delivered – it feels a lot like pain. Being proactive, enabling communication, responding quickly, keeping the client updated and ultimately resolving the issue, will help to reduce the pain you’re causing your client and the unpleasant memory associated with that event.
Need some help delivering value to your clients? Drop me an email here.
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* Originally used in the telecommunications industry to refer to the final section of the network that connects the service to the end-user (for example the landline to the telephone exchange), “the last mile” in retail refers to the final leg of the journey – to deliver the goods from the warehouse to the customer.
Photo by Dana Vollenweider on Unsplash