Just recently I had reason to attend a large motor retailer because a car they sold me was not exactly performing optimally. On explaining this to a fairly senior member of staff I was told I had to contact their customer care department! Resisting the urge to ask whether all the rest of the organisation cares about customers I asked how I should go about this he gave me a London number which turned out to be a call centre. My experiences with the call centre can wait for another day but the very idea that care for the customer can be outsourced is ludicrous. The flow of customers and particularly repeat customers is what sustains a business and to allow any to slip through your fingers without putting up a fight is to invite problems.
Did you know that 90 per cent of customers who have a bad experience with a company never complain? They just never come back, going away quietly. You never know what went wrong—so you never have the chance to make amends. Instead of waiting for the customer to come to you with a complaint, go to them first to verify their experience with your company and check on their level of happiness. Call them and ask for feedback. Call each and every customer, or at least a large enough percentage to get a meaningful statistical result. Ask probing questions. Listen carefully to what your customers say. You’ll learn a lot—and it could lead to positive change in the way you do business in the future. Many of the best customer service ideas come straight from customers’ feedback
When the inevitable happens, and a customer is angry or disappointed, it is actually a great opportunity to make that customer a customer for life. Resolve whatever the problem is in the customer’s favour. Give their money back, fix the problem, replace the item—then go the extra mile with a discount or incentive for next time. Even if the complaint seems unreasonable or invalid, bite the bullet and do what is necessary to satisfy them. This doesn’t mean being a pushover, and most customers are reasonable people who will not take undue advantage of generous customer service policies. And even if a few do, the advantages in building your list of satisfied repeat customers will far outweigh the one complainer who will never be quite satisfied.
To return to the French car manufacturer I contacted the managing director but received nothing in return, not even an acknowledgement. Eventually they did sort out the problem but the drawn out nature of the process meant it did not reflect well on the company. Customers leave one at a time and before you know it once large and successful institutions are in trouble or even disappear. A slogan comes back to me from the first company I worked for. Around the factory posters proclaimed “Quality Keeps Customer, Customers Keep Us”