Monday, October 21, 2013

Are You Being Served - Customer Mis-Experiences

I hadn’t dealt in stocks for the last few years, and I was surprised when I received a bill from my stock broker for services which I had not availed of. I was willing to give the benefit of doubt to the broker and called their customer care.
Given the fact that I was a bonafide customer, I expected the call to be received well and my questions answered satisfactorily. The call was answered promptly by an IVR which directed me through a maze of options. After careful negotiation I was told that I was customer no. 17. I thought I would be attended to sooner than later. 5 minutes passed, then 10, then 15, 16, 17 and it reached 20. Imagine, I was on hold for 20 minutes and I did not get a representative to speak to me. So much for customer service!
During the length of the hold, I was treated to a series of marketing pitches. Since I was on hold for a long time, I went through with them twice. I could not help but think how they could serve me more when they could not serve me better with the service I had supposedly availed of. I needed to resolve the problem and so could not hand up. And thus spent an inordinate time irritated and patiently.
A credit card company (one of the cards I use) decided that they had changed policy without even intimation. I was politely told that the terms of the redemption of reward points had changed and frankly I did not have much of a choice!
I am sure that customers the world over experience this every day. There are many redressal mechanisms but they are time consuming. In effect customers are bullied into submission. The power which a big organization has, has been misused. Sometimes organizations forget that it is the customer which is giving business and not the other way around.

But why allow such instances or issues to take place at all. Can organizations not be ‘truly’ customer friendly?  Can they not take steps to avoid this dissonance?
Here are a few proactive steps a company can take to reduce the disconnect :
 a) Honour commitments – don’t keep changing policies. Agreed market conditions change but that does not make it necessary for an organization to change policies ad hoc.
People are customers because they saw a basket of benefits. If you dilute them then you are diluting your relationship.
 b) Don’t punish customers for being your customers – Manipulation or taking the customers for granted is a sure shot way of creating friction and resentment.
 c) Communicate – If at all the policies have to be changed, communicate to your customers. Explain to them this is being done, Ofcourse there will be opposition but atleast you are being transparent.
d) Transparent & honest – be straight forward and factual on why  the actions are being taken. Don’t couch with legalese and marketing jargon.
e) Don’t use each interaction as a sales pitch – Customers call when they have a problem. Don’t use that time to give endless sales pitches – they don’t want to hear it!
 f) Empower employees – Empower employees to take decisions. Most often, call executives are totally without any power and cannot take any decision. They are mere robots to communicate information – nothing more!
Customers remember bad service much more than good service and that is the eternal truth. An organisation has to deliver each and every time and not rest on laurels, The repercussions of bad customer service are many.They can
a) Leave and stop using your service or product - given competition the options are many.
b) Complain to all and sundry - people love to complain and it is easier to complain than praise. Customers are people and hence don't expect them to take things lightly, most of them will shout.
c) The costs associated with losing a customer is high. It is said that it takes seven times more money to get a customer than retain a new one. The negative affects of bad PR in social media cannot be quantified. And there is very little cost to it!

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