Customer service and the bottom line

I’m sure most of us agree technology has been a godsend in business – it’s more efficient, quicker and often less expensive in the long run compared to doing things the old fashioned way. But if you’re like me, technology at times can be a curse and a blessing, a love/hate relationship of epic proportions, in part because when that technology fails us we are often dependent on others to resolve the issue while the work we desperately needed to finish hangs in the balance.


However, somewhere along the line it seems in the quest to build-in even better and bigger cost efficiencies into our businesses, customer service has been negatively affected, something I personally experienced recently when I switched over my phone, Internet and cable services, to one company.  Post install, said company was called to my house four or fives times for the better part of a month fixing one issue or another. Some days I couldn’t get email, other days the cable box was acting up and once when the power went out my manual phone would not operate from the modem like I was told it would. While I understand issues can happen, there was nothing about this process that went smoothly – from calling the main number and being forced to listen to endless advertisements, to determining which department I needed to speak with to long wait times hoping the person who picked up understood my issue.


Technicians rarely showed up at the early end of the four-hour appointment window, almost never were able to resolve the issue that day nor ever seemed to have the necessary replacement parts on their truck. The pinnacle of my frustration occurred on the day the service tech first came to the house. At the company’s error, the wireless modem was not written up in the tech’s orders as part of our needed equipment and even though he had a spare one on his truck his supervisor said he could not give it to me because the original one I ordered was in transit and would arrive some time that week. Not acceptable – I needed that modem now which was when the tech told me his boss said we could have the modem at a cost of $100 more because he would have to install it himself, per the company’s orders. I declined and expressed my frustration to the technician using some choice words I won’t repeat here.


After each service appointment, I began receiving “how did we do” automated calls. Each time I responded that the issue had not been resolved my account was credited $20. Despite their end attempt to assuage me by dangling money at me, this large, national mega conglomerate missed the boat on what it takes to make a customer like me happy. They didn’t value my time, they didn’t make the process simple or easy to resolve and they often failed to fix the problem. And what’s worse, they under estimated the impact one unhappy customer could have on their reputation. As often happens in a small town, my neighbors all wanted to know how my experience was before switching services themselves, many of whom declined to do so after hearing of my customer service struggles.


I’m sure this large technology company is under the impression their program works just fine, but if they had put themselves in their customer’s shoes things would be different. One of these days it might be interesting to test your company’s customer service program and its ability to effectively resolve issues in a timely manner. Play the role of the customer – use your website’s customer feedback option to see if you ever get a helpful response, dial the toll-free phone number and see if the person answering the phone is caring (or could care less) or visit the customer service desk at one of your stores and see for yourself whether the process you helped create facilitates timely resolution or frustration. After all, I hope you’d agree that it is far cheaper to build a loyal army of customer evangelists than to try to quell the power one disgruntled customer’s word of mouth can have these days.

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