This week I have had two examples of appalling customer service from two different organisations and I haven’t told them about it.

Surely as a responsible customer it would be better if I explained the problems and then things would get better for other customers right?

This is undoubtedly true, but there are some really human reasons why I haven’t contacted the companies concerned and why I’ll never use them again.

The first example is a plastering business that came and did some work on an extension we have built on our house.

Let me say first off that they did a great job, the finish is great and they came up with an idea for a barrel ceiling that I hadn’t thought of.

So what was so bad about it?

Initially they turned up on time and started work – all good. Then on day two they didn’t bother to show and didn’t call me to say they wouldn’t be in. Then on day three they turned up late, did half a day and went away again.

This all added to the time the job took and was really annoying when I was organising for people to be in for them.

Even more annoying was that they produced a lot of rubbish which they proceeded to hide around the extension for me to find later when they had gone and after I’d paid them!

Now I appreciate that trades will produce rubbish but they could either have had the conversation about who would remove it or at least left it all together in one place for me to deal with.

So why didn’t I tell them?

Part of it is that I didn’t want to upset them. For me I don’t feel the need to phone people and complain after the fact if it won’t produce any real change and in the building sector it’s the standard method of operating it appears.

And of course I’m British. We rarely complain when we should.

The second instance was with a multi-national company that requires the user to go through a 15 page troubleshooting process before giving out a phone number to get some actual action on a problem.

The mistake I made was in thinking I could just go back to that page when I wanted to look up the number again (I got cut off the first time I called!).

If a company makes it that difficult to get through to them then I really don’t want to be a customer of theirs.

So why didn’t I complain?

They are a multinational and I couldn’t see any leverage I have that will make them change. I’m pretty cynical when it comes to big business and it seemed to me that they’ve done the sums and it’s cheaper to suffer the odd customer like me cancelling their contract than pay for more support staff.

The problem for small businesses is that this is a slow death.

After a while you find that you’re not getting repeat customers or you’re not getting referrals to other people that need work doing. Your business refuses to grow and in some cases starts to go backwards.

So how can you counter this?

You’ll need to carry out a form of ‘customer experience audit’ to check how you’re doing.

The first and most effective method is to use your service from the customer’s point of view. Place some online orders, get some work done, phone your helplines. If you can, then do it anonymously but you must resist the temptation to use any inside knowledge to complete your purchase process. Try and see it like your potential customer would.

You may be surprised to find that your website isn’t quite as easy to navigate or that you can’t get through on the phones. I recently came across a company that had experienced a reduction in phone orders. They had implemented an auto menu that cut callers off no matter what option they chose!

Secondly speak to customers that haven’t ordered again. You can call them and have an informal chat or use a survey system (like surveymonkey) to ask questions so that they can give you their opinions in a confidential and anonymous setting.

The third option for seeing it from your customers’ point of view is to use one of the specialist ‘mystery shopper’ services to get an independent view of how people see your company and the service it provides.

These services are used to using businesses services and then reporting back on their findings in an unvarnished and factual way.

Every single marketplace is more competitive than ever so giving all of your customers great service is vital. It helps retain existing customers and breeds referrals to help you build a profitable business for very little outlay.

If you want to check your customer friendliness then why not carry out an experience audit today?



WC 836

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