By: Karen Pelletier
Why can’t companies go out of their way to help solve a customer’s problem with their brand? I can’t tell you how many times I email a company and get a response back from customer service essentially saying “thanks for contacting us, but we can’t help you—not my job.” When my partners and I owned a dog food company, our policy was to go above and beyond to help solve a customer’s problem. If a potential customer called in asking to buy our dog food direct, because they couldn’t get it where they lived, we figured out a way to sell it to them via mail order (now of course it would be online). Happy customers share their experience with others. Unhappy customers get even by badmouthing the company.
If all companies were privately held I can’t believe they wouldn’t place a huge emphasis on customer service and go above and beyond to turn potential customers into brand evangelists. So why don’t more companies make a commitment to customer satisfaction?
1. The company doesn’t give the customer service rep the authority to figure out how to solve the customer’s problem.
2. The customer service rep doesn’t care. If it’s not in their limited repertoire of “canned” responses, then they are not going to extend themselves to help.
3. Customer service system metrics—if the rep is evaluated by how many calls they handle in an hour, and not by the degree of satisfaction of the customer, then the company has a problem.
Two Contrasting Case Stories
Any woman who has finally found a comfortable bra can tell you that when you find a bra you like, you stock up. Well, I could only find 2 bras and wanted more but couldn’t find them anywhere. I looked on the company’s website; the bra was not sold there. I looked on other retailers’ websites, again, no dice. I finally resorted to emailing Playtex’s customer service. Their response:
“We are sorry you are having a problem finding style number XXXX. This style is sold at most Wal-Mart, K Mart and Target Stores. We do not carry online at our catalog website.”
When I responded that I had checked all those stores and that the style was not in stock anywhere, and that I’d really like to be able to order it online, I got the following response:
“We will forward your comments to our appropriate department.”
Needless to say, this was a very unsatisfying response. Contrast that experience with Oakley.
I’ve owned a pair of Oakley sunglasses for 12 years. The plastic nose-piece had finally worn out and I needed to replace it. I looked at their website, found the nose-piece sold along with frame accessories that I didn’t need, so I called their customer service, and asked if I could just buy the nose-piece. Lo and behold, the customer service rep offered to send me a replacement nose-piece for FREE! Now that’s customer service! I will be loyal to Oakley forever!
So What Should Companies Do?
1. Empower their customer service reps to find solutions to the customer’s problems. This means that the customer service rep may actually have to “talk” to someone in the company who can help solve the problem.
2. Evaluate the customer service rep by how satisfied the customer is, not by how many calls he or she handles.
If your customer service reps treat your company like it’s their own, and feel like they have a vested interest in its success, they will do anything they can to preserve and further your reputation for customer care.