Customer Connected….Or Not!

Soap box time! (Don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

How many organisations, especially the ones we all have to deal with (e.g.: utilities, local councils, etc), just can’t wait to tell us how good their customer service is?

Or should that be how good they think their customer service is?

In reality, just how good is it?

Achieveing genuine execellence in the field of customer service is only as difficult as you want to make it.

It may be an old, and well-worn adage, but little things really do make the difference. Solid, simple, clear thinking is also vital to success – one of the easiest things to do, and yet is so often not done!

Remember K.I.S.S.? Keep ISimple (Stupid)!

Within the last few weeks, an associate and I have been spurred on to create a new attitudes, behaviours and skills development programme simply called ‘Customer Connected’ – driven by our collective, and frequent poor experiences, as customers, when dealing with all sorts of organisations.

Here’s an example of poor service I received recently:

A year ago, I signed up for the best dual fuel energy deal I could find. At the time, the well known energy provider made it quite clear that the deal would expire on 31 July 2010. Fair enough.

Last week, I received a letter from said energy provider reminding me that my current deal was about to expire – thanks for the reminder, well done.

The same letter also advised me that my supply of gas and electricity was being moved to their standard, most expensive tariff – no details of what other deals are available whatsoever! Bad move on the customer service front! Very bad!

Important: the energy provider failed the simplicity test – as one deal runs out, letting the customer know of the best deal they can provide, rather than the worst deal they can provide, takes exactly the same amount of effort.

So, I checked the energy provider’s website, only to find that there is a much better deal available (which actually turns out to be the best deal for me, whatever the provider) – by this time I, as a customer, am becoming increasingly unimpressed!

The website only allows new customers to sign up for the deal – the implication here is that it isn’t available to existing customers. At this point, that little voice in my head says, “Well, we’ll just have to see about that, won’t we?”. By now, again as a customer, I’m pretty miffed to put it mildly!

So I grab the phone. After 3 minutes of being bounced around in a telephonic abyss, I eventually get to speak to a real human being. Well, when I say ‘real’….!

To cut this story short, it turns out that the ‘best’ deal is actually available to existing customers too!!! Great. Why doesn’t your website and your letter say that?

Another addition to my poor customer experience!

Can it be organised there and then? Yes. Great! At last!

So, what infathomable reasons are there for me being forced to experience these instances of poor customer service when providing all of the information in the letter would have made me a happy customer straightaway?

Goodness knows what the real answers are to that question, but, in essence, they missed a major opportunity to deliver great service.

Somebody, somewhere in that organisation approved the letter, designed the website, purchased and configured the telephone system, and employed the myriad of customer ‘service’ personnel – all of which costs (more) money!

Or, to put it another way, adds cost to the business. These costs have to be recovered through the (higher) charges to customers.

So, if the original letter had simply advised me of being moved to their best deal, instead of their worst deal, some of those additional costs could be avoided, allowing lower charges for customers and, most importantly of all, very happy customers. (If they can move me to their worst deal by just writing to me, then they can just as easily move me to their best deal!)

The lesson from all this? Whatever the amount your customer spends with you, however much interaction you have with them, and however valuable they are to you and your business, keeping them happy really isn’t that difficult!

For some reason, there has become a desire to take something simple and make it as complicated as we possibly can.

If you really value keeping your customers happy – please, please, please don’t do it!

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