That moment when we realize something’s wrong with our bill, or the item we ordered is not the same as the one we received.
Then the anguish sets in.
The realization that we have to get in touch with another customer service department. Or, as is more often the case, the anti-customer service department. The long hold times, endless call-tree options and constant hand-offs from one group to another…and another…and another.
And please don’t tell me your name is “Bob” with that crazy thick foreign accent.
It’s enough to drive anyone crazy.
Now granted, I have dealt with some really phenomenal service reps in the past. I’ve encountered a few that left me speechless (in a good way) and smiling from ear to ear. But I’ve also been tortured by a select few that had me screaming into the phone and left my blood pressure somewhere north of the stratosphere.
Thankfully, I don’t run into these kinds of issues very often. For the most part.
But I was recently hit with a one-two punch that left me reeling. I was faced with two separate problems that required customer service calls…in the same week.
And my experiences could not have been more different.
The first call was over a billing issue with my TV and Internet provider. I won’t say which one, but let’s be honest, they’re all about the same. We’ll just call them “Buster” from here on out.
The second problem was a pair of insoles I had ordered from the online shoe retailer Zappos.
As I mentioned, “Buster” was giving me a hard time about my bill (I’m sure we’ve all been there, so I’ll spare you the details) while the insoles I ordered from Zappos arrived one size too large.
The way these two organizations handled my problems were like night and day. And because of their stark contrast, serve as prime examples of how we should all be thinking about customer service.
Oh. It’s You Again
After a lengthy hold time – and fielding a dizzying array of menu options – I finally got one of “Buster’s” service reps on the line. I took the time to politely explain my problem – with the expectation of a little sympathy in return.
Boy was I wrong.
I mean, I wasn’t asking for much. Even a half-assed “I’m sorry to hear that” would have been better than nothing. Guess my expectations were a bit too lofty.
I got the impression that I was out of line asking for help in the first place.
Like I was bothering them.
Like I was unimportant.
The whole incident had a strange air of sterility to it. As though it was an everyday occurrence for their customers to have this type of experience.
At first, I thought, perhaps I had gotten the wrong person. Maybe the rep was just having a bad day. I’d probably fare better speaking to a manager.
Turns out I was the wrong person.
The manager was just as apathetic (if not more so) that the employee before her. I pleaded my case once again but ended up with the same result.
I was frustrated. And left with an even more sour taste in my mouth then before I called.
Show Them You Care/Value Their Business
Enter Zappos. A breath of fresh air.
As soon the customer agent came on the line, she was jovial, and allowed me to voice my concerns without interruption. Then she did the unexpected.
She apologized for the problem I was having.
And honestly, I felt sincerity in her voice. It seemed like she actually cared about the fact that I was having trouble.
Not only was she eager to help, but she had personality. I was treated to a real conversation with another human being. Not left to sit in silence while being serenaded by keyboard clicks.
In short, Zappos made me feel like they appreciated my business, and wanted to keep me as a customer.
And I liked that.
Not only was the Zappos rep a joy to talk to, but she immediately offered me a store credit for my next visit. Honestly, her generosity caught me off guard and served to instantly elevate my mood.
I mean, who doesn’t like free stuff?
What better way to calm an irritated customer than to give them a little something for their troubles? And when you can make your customers happy, employee morale will follow suit.
Who wants to have angry customers screaming at them all day?
Keep in mind that Zappos didn’t have to offer me the credit. I would have been perfectly content to have my problem fixed and just been on my way. But they went the extra mile – and surprised me. And if left a huge impression on a first-time customer.
In the process, I also discovered that Zappos offers a 365 day return policy. With free shipping included both ways.
Yep. You heard that right. A whole year to make up your mind about a pair of shoes.
Who does that?
You may be thinking, “Yeah but, wouldn’t the store credits and the extended returns policy cost Zappos an arm and a leg?”
I doubt it.
What their policy does is to instill confidence in buyers, and as a result, create additional sales. Consider how much more business you can earn from a satisfied customer rather than a disgruntled one. More than enough, I’m sure, to make up the difference for a few returns.
Surprise Them (But Don’t Scare Them)
Contrast this with what “Buster” offered me for my dissatisfaction.
No credit, no refund, no anything.
Although I will admit, “Buster” did surprise me in one way. I was so frustrated over the whole incident, I decided to ask about the penalties I’d face if I decided to cancel my service right then and there.
Suddenly, the rep was much more upbeat. Actually, she seemed quite eager to help me cancel my service as soon as I gave the word. She was even kind enough to offer to walk me through the process.
After I hung up, I was actually a little scared that she had canceled my service. Even though I was just asking about “what ifs.”
Take Accountability of the Problem
Another point that sold me on my Zappos experience was that the 1st rep I talked to…was the only rep I talked to. She took ownership of the problem from the moment we spoke (and never let go).
Talk about reassuring.
She had to contact several other internal departments to resolve my issue (the warehouse, shipping and receiving, returns, etc.) but SHE did all the legwork and reported back to ME. I felt like I was in charge. Like I was the boss.
And who doesn’t love feeling like a Boss?
The other guys? Hmmph. I was passed around like an appetizer tray at a cocktail party. Every issue that wasn’t “their department” sent me on another trip down the line.
Your customers don’t want to be the spud in a game of hot potato. Make sure employees know to handle every situation in as few steps as possible.
A customer that feels like they’re being taken care of is the ultimate compliment.
Make It Fun
While on hold, I discovered that Zappos gives you the option to listen to the “joke of the day” while you’re waiting. When I called, this meant a super corny “chicken crossed the road” type zinger, but it was so silly and unexpected that it made me laugh anyway.
The best part? The joke was told by an actual Zappos employee.
How awesome is that?
During the conversation, my Zappos service rep noted that I was from Texas and asked if the insoles I ordered were for my cowboy boots. I told her they weren’t, but it was a fun way to break the ice and start a lighthearted conversation while she worked through my problem.
What a stark difference from what was behind door #2. I didn’t catch the “Buster” rep’s name at first, so I asked her to repeat it (so I could write it down). She seemed genuinely annoyed that I had made such a frivolous request.
What was I thinking???
Not the best way to start things off after being forced to listen to elevator music and navigate those wretched call trees.
Note to businesses of the world: There is nothing more annoying to a frustrated customer than a call tree.
Listen, before you think I’m being biased, I know there are some good employees at “Busters” around the world. There are good employees everywhere. They just happened to not be on the line with me that day.
Who knows? Maybe next time will be different.
I sure hope so.
It Starts At The Top
What it all boils down to is this: You need to create a culture of customer service in your organization.
Whether you’re running solo or have a team working alongside you. Instill in your employees that every customer should be treated like your only customer. For when they’re calling in for help, those are make-or-break moments.
My experiences are proof of that.
Don’t run your customers through a crazy maze of call tree options or make them feel like they’re 2nd class citizens for wanting to speak to you. If need be, spend a few more dollars and hire some extra service reps to avoid lengthy hold times or transferred calls.
Whatever it takes.
Treat every customer with respect and enthusiasm. Make the experience memorable, and hopefully, somewhat fun.
Because in the end, that’s all anybody really wants. To be heard, understood and to feel special.
Once you get the customer service aspect of your business dialed in, the rest will fall into place on it’s own.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go redeem my Zappos store credit…for some new boots.
How does your customer service funnel look? What else could you be doing to make the experience more memorable or enjoyable? How can you stand out from the competition? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.