Managing Teams, Start Up / New to Business

The Missed Customer Opportunity

Does your business pride itself on customer service?  Your customer facing staff are friendly and know their product? Great!  What happens when things don’t go to plan?

Recently I had an experience that drove home the belief that it’s how the customer experience is managed when things don’t go to plan that really defines how well your business is doing on the customer service front.

What happened?  When purchasing an item from a well-known technology retailer I was accidently charged twice.  The mistake was an innocent one, made by a company that has friendly, knowledgeable floor staff.  Upon realising the error, I called the store to arrange a refund.  Again, the friendly staff identified the issue and let me know of the timeframe to expect a refund.  However, the refund didn’t come.  Subsequently more phone calls were made, interactions with friendly staff ensued, and I was told to email details of the error to the store so that the manager could look over it – the emails get auto-sorted and mine was not read.  Four weeks from the initial purchase I made my way back to the store to try to finally sort out the issue.  Friendly staff, another round of explaining what’s happened and what has already been submitted, needless to say my perspective of the customer experience had been tainted. 

So how could the situation have been handled better?  The company obviously trains its floor staff well with them all having great product knowledge.  They also appear to select individuals with good people skills who are friendly and helpful.  Each staff member I spoke with was polite, friendly and tried to follow procedure to rectify the issue – trouble was that procedure had already been followed with no result.  So, was the issue with the individual or the organisational systems and processes?

My feelings are that the issue wasn’t necessarily with the customer service staff, but more with the support mechanisms and interactions with other departments.  When we look at customer service we typically focus on the staff that have direct interaction with them.  But in fact, these staff can be hindered if other areas of the business don’t understand why a customer service employee is asking for something.  In the above situation, what would have helped is having a ticket or case opened for the situation – this would have meant that I (the customer) didn’t have to repeat the story to each employee, it could also include the steps that the store has already taken to rectify the issue.  Not having to constantly repeat the scenario would save a lot of customer frustration.

Consider training floor staff on what “service excellence” is.  There is generally a focus on following systems and processes, however in this situation the flowcharts weren’t flowing anywhere.  Highly scripting your employees can contribute to a lack of customer empathy as it can hinder imagination as to how best serve the individual customer in the particular circumstance.  Additionally, allowing some discretionary levers (e.g. gift cards, complimentary products) that the employee can utilise to appease an unhappy customer also goes some way to turning around an imperfect situation.

Finally, consider what you’re measuring.  The old adage “You get what you measure” rings true.  If you’re rewarding customer-facing staff on particular metrics, they are going to focus on achieving those, often at the cost of others.  In the above situation, I’m confident that staff receive some portion of remuneration based on sales targets, so who wants to spend time rectifying a system error if it means a potential decline in your personal sales?  Either add a metric on turnaround times of issues or place responsibility for rectification on an individual, with turnaround targets and customer satisfaction attached.

We each have anecdotes of when a bad experience or system error is handled well by a business.  We then leave the business likely a more loyal customer than had the error not occurred, hopefully we tell a few people of how exceptionally the business handled failure.

Want to understand the experience from your customers’ perspective – take a look back at our article Be Talked About for All the Right Reasons to learn about service blueprinting. 

Recent Posts

2022 Personal Tax Checklist

With the 2022 Tax season fast approaching, we’ve pulled together … Continued

14 Tax Considerations for Business Owners

As a small business owner too, we know how busy … Continued