Sharon Koehler

Artistic Stone Design

It is funny how sometimes one thing leads to another. Due to hacking, corporate breaches and identity theft, I have gotten into the habit of checking my bank account and my credit card statements every day. That act alone has led to some eye-opening revelations about the state of customer service these days.

I had an auto–shipment set up with a company in Texas. Every month they sent me product and deducted the amount due from my checking account (through my Visa debit card). I was looking at my bank account one day and realized they had accidentally double-billed me. Granted, not a good thing, but people do make mistakes. In my mind, I thought they just needed to be notified of the problem and they’d reverse the charges. No big deal, right? Wrong! 

I called the company and a rude customer service rep told me I had to go online and fill out a form. I did. I waited a couple of days and heard nothing. I contacted them again. They sent me an email apologizing, saying I would have my money back in three to five days. That didn’t happen. Another email came promising a resolution in 24 hours. Again, didn’t happen. Long story short, after another 11 emails and 33 days, I STILL had to get the Visa people involved to dispute the claim. All that effort to get back what was rightfully mine. They lost me as a customer and not only that, I will never recommend them to anyone, either.  Why? Poor customer service and lack of customer care.

The same holds true for an eyeglass place that I visited recently. I had an eye exam, got a prescription and picked out some glasses. Folks, if you haven’t shopped for glasses recently, they can be expensive. I need bifocals, so that doesn’t help the cost. I arranged for two pair to be made. The next day I looked at my account and realized that they had double charged me. This is hundreds of dollars. What made it worse was that it happened on the first of the month when I have a lot of automatic payments hitting my account, like my insurance, house payment, cable, internet, gym membership, credit card payments, etc.  Losing that extra $400 started a catastrophic downhill slide of my bank account. 

There were overdraft fees for things the bank paid anyway, and late fees for things that didn’t clear. I called the bank to let them know what had happened and got specific instructions the eyeglass place needed to follow to fix this situation. When I called the eyeglass place, they flat out refused to help me and recommended that I go online and notify their corporate office. They could do nothing at the store level.  I don’t mind telling you that I had what we call here in the South a Hairy Conniption Fit! 

I morphed past furious in less than a nanosecond. They took my money at the store level, so I should get it back at the store level. I browbeat that place for 24 hours until I literally forced them to do what I wanted. Here again, the initial response was not to help.  So, they lost me as a customer and I would never recommend them to anyone else. Plus in this particular case, the woman that recommended them to me said she would not go back and she would not recommend them to anyone else, either. Why? Exceptionally poor customer service and lack of customer care.

Let’s face it — people make mistakes all the time. Humans are not perfect, but when you are at fault – OWN IT! Customer service isn’t about not making any mistakes, it’s about how you handle the mistakes you do make.  Don’t blame it on the “other guy.” Don’t pass the buck.  Don’t bury your head in the sand and hope it goes away. Don’t complain to the customer about it. Own it, and fix it. 

Furthermore, apologize. Sincerely apologize. A warm, sincere apology can go a long way toward defusing a customer’s temper. Ask them what you can do to help them or how you can fix their problem. If they are asking for something unreasonable, offer a good alternate fix to the issue. 

Don’t blame the customer. And don’t ever say,“Well, you must have done SOMETHING wrong!” 

Try to work on the customer’s schedule. The customer shouldn’t have to lose time from work or alter their busy schedule for your mistake. If you absolutely cannot work on their schedule, try to minimize their inconvenience.  Once a resolution has been reached, repeat it to them in a recap and if possible, email your recap to them so everyone is on the same page. When people are upset, sometimes they don’t hear everything you are saying. When it comes time to act, don’t put the customer or the problem at the bottom of your to-do list. Put it at the top and handle it the way you said you would. For the most part, people will forgive a mistake if you show that you want to be helpful. 

Great customer service is a key component to any business that wants to grow and be profitable. You want your current customers to come back, and you want a positive referral from them to help generate more interest in your company. Referrals are the easiest and least expensive way to grow your business. People listen when their friends and relatives talk. Even if a mistake is made, you still want them to have confidence in you and your product or service – and how you resolve the problem will also say a lot about the way you treat your customers. Don’t let poor customer service be the reason you are struggling to grow your business. Let it be the reason your competitors fall short, not you. 

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