Customer service – who needs it?

Importance of customer serviceBritain used to be, shall we say, not great at customer service. But then everyone started to catch on that keeping a customer was less expensive (5 – 7 times) than finding a new customer. Good service also of course benefits reputation and public image.

So why would any company build into its systems anti-customer procedures? Or arrange for any customer contact to be one that turns the customer against the company?

Yet that’s what happened twice to me recently when contacting organisations. Admittedly the first one is a well known example of how to get it wrong, but even then the way in which their procedures and systems promoted a poor customer experience amazed me.

Who was it? BT I’m afraid and before you cry out “well what did you expect”, let me say that I have mostly enjoyed being a BT customer, but maybe that’s because I had little reason to contact them before.

Without boring you with details, it took numerous frustrating calls and 5 weeks to simply have our 2nd line moved to a new house. The issue was that BT’s systems didn’t allow the department that I had to contact, to pick up a phone and talk to the people that had to book and carry out the work. All they could do was send an email. No one knew if the email was read or being actioned. There’s also no way to give feedback, so they will never know how to improve their systems.

In the other case, I contacted Which? to change my address, however after going through several layers of automated call handling and being kept waiting 10 minutes on the one selected, with no end in sight, I decided I didn’t actually need their magazine that much and instead just cancelled the subscription.

Interestingly, the people I talked to in BT and Which? were polite and tried to be helpful, but their systems let them down.

It’s also strange that one can struggle to get through to a customer service department, to be thwarted in every way and yet you can get quickly through to the sales department.

As though existing customers are less important than potential new ones. Have we forgotten already the relative costs of acquisition versus retaining?

Generally in the UK we have now gotten pretty good at training staff to give the right service messages, but systems are often put in by people who are measured on cost savings rather than customer satisfaction.

If you are in the position of running a business never underestimate the importance of keeping customers happy, even after they have bought your products or service.


6 thoughts on “Customer service – who needs it?

  1. J William (Bill) Moore

    You are right!  I’ve seen the BT issue first hand and  have increased several of the UK’s largest companies gross profit by 40% and more through merely correcting their customer service.  Our new global launch is a company that does many things to make people wealthy and happy and showing the true light of customer service is one of them.  One store we corrected  increased 550k to 770k and it is so easy when the manager, staff and customer all work on the same team training each other… (more on that as our sites develop out over the summer).  Stop by and see us and we hope you’ll share this blog on our site – Thanks!

  2. Ian McIntosh

    I can understand your frustration and side with you on this. It seems the bigger the organisation who you would think have the most disposable cash to install the best fail to understand how we the customer feels. I have had similar experiences with Government organisations and British Gas but I have to praise BT for the way they handled my issues once I got through to a human being. I am impressed by the voice activated systems that are out there. One of my insurance companies has a system where you tell it what you want and it deciphers your request and places you with an advisor who already has a view of what you want, I like that

  3. Sue

    I’m with BT and I am always very polite to them but I dread anything going wrong with my phone or TV because I’m very familiar with what you say here. I know that if my Internet goes off that I will be spending at least half a day on the phone to India. Also, I often ring the sales department to ask to be put through to the department I want because it’s the only way to get past the automated answering machine!

  4. rantersparadise

    I couldn’t agree more and in fact Sue, I also use your tactics but I’ll tell you one place that it falls foul and that is with Royal Mail.

    I’ll leave it at that!

    I could rant about Customer Service in this country for ever.

  5. Stewart Ramlogan

    As all have identified, customer service is a major issue, if you think BT is bad, try tackling this subject in the Hospitality industry where a transient and poorly informed workforce often cost their employers millions of pounds through wrong and late orders, ‘could not care less’ attitudes (e.g. front desk not even acknowledging you are standing in front of them), wastage and ignorance concerning cultural and disablilty issues.

  6. Tanya Petrena

    Here is an article I wrote a few weeks ago and I do feel that it is relevant here as I do feel that customer service should be at the heart of any good business.

    Here Are 20 Vital Ingredients For Excellent Customer Service

    It doesn’t matter if you own a business that is a large conglomerate or just a sole-trader, if you do not give excellent customer service, your company will eventually fail. That extra personal touch promotes a business because if a client has received excellent customer service then the customer will give the company valuable advertising by referring other people or companies to the business or sole trader who had time to tend to their personal needs as well as providing them with the goods or services they need.
    My personal thoughts are that presentation, pride and the ability to listen to the customer to ascertain whatever goods or services.
    Do not try to force this however, you could try to suggest other services that you could provide that would be more beneficial or would complement the goods and services that the customer could benefit from as well as any special offers that you will have by combining a comprehensive package of goods and services.
    This will make the customer feel as if you are caring about them and you are providing quality customer service that is personal to their needs and not just going through the motions. This will prove to be winning combinations in helping a business thrive.
    For that vital ingredient customer service check these suggestions out.
    1. Think of yourself as a client in whatever goods or service the client receives. How would you like to be treated?
    2. Would you like to have someone friendly and professional on the other end of the phone?
    3. This sounds a little crazy but it works for me, the business course I attended at college, I was once told by my tutor to always smile when answering the phone, because as you smile your mood changes and it reflects in the conversation you are having. There is nothing worse than a person who is half interested in listening to what you have to say.
    4. Don’t interrupt the client when they are requesting the goods or services they require.
    5. Have a working pen and a note-book ready for taking notes or even open a word processing program on your computer if you can.
    6. Take note of the time and date of the conversation and essentially make sure you take a note of the name of whom you are speaking to. So that you can call them by their name, never use the client’s first name unless they give you permission to do so, as it is very unprofessional.
    7. Next take a note of their company or who they represent. Then the goods or services they require and make sure you find out when they require the goods or services. However, don’t make promises you cannot keep. Clients remember when people have a fundamental flaw; they remember when people break promises.
    8. Everyone talks in business and they do tell others about individuals or companies who let them down by poor customer service as well as those who did give them that vital ingredient customer service that does an impact on the number of people who are willing to take a chance on your company. So it is essential you listen and get things right.
    9. If there is an unavoidable delay in which you cannot supply the goods or services contact the client immediately and again be honest about the time in which you can deliver what you have promised in the beginning. If you can, you are providing a service; you could even give a little discount for the inconvenience which may smooth things over.
    10. If you require something from the client, always use the words please and don’t ever demand or try to bully. Remember everyone has problems from time to time, so try to accommodate the customer as much as possible.
    11. From time to time things do go wrong, goods can become faulty or there could be a misunderstanding as to what service a customer requires. Try to be patient, listen and then try to offer solutions to the problem.
    12. If a solution cannot be met, offer a full refund right away and then give them a name and address of an alternative company who could help them so that it will have less impact on your company.
    13. Manners and presentation are everything. Please and thank you do not cost anything and they can be very effective in persuading employees and colleagues to help fulfil the client’s request.
    14. No one likes anyone who demands or bullies in order to get what they want, if you treat your customers, employees or colleges with respect, you in turn will be treated with respect and if you are pleasant with people they tend to try to help as much as they can. However, if you are rude and demanding people tend to think less of you and make you wait longer or do their best not to fulfil your need to fulfil your customer’s request.
    15. Be fair with your employee’s or colleagues, if they do need time off for personal reasons, try to do your best to fulfil their request and if you can’t make sure you show them the reason why.
    16. If someone has done a good job praise them however if they have made a mistake, don’t shout it a person’s mistake, so that everyone can listen. Instead take the colleague or the employee to one side and explain that you feel that they have made a mistake and listen to them. That way the person won’t feel humiliated.
    17. It might be after you speaking to your colleague or employee, that is you that has made a mistake, apologise immediately, people do respect other people who are willing to admit they are wrong from time to time.
    18. Above all, put the needs of the customer, employee’s or clients before your own, however, you do have to be careful not to take on too much otherwise you will burn out very easy and become very resentful because you are very tired.
    19. Don’t try to overcharge, have a good look around and find out how much the item or service is going around;
    20. If you have a bad experience with a difficult customer, don’t pick up the phone in a bad mood. Take a little break by having a coffee and chill out for a couple of minutes if you can, and allow your staff to do the same before dealing with other customers.

    Remember this:
    “The tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.” –Benjamin Mays

    Written by TanyaPetrena

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