Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Customer Service - A Lost Art?

Today I experienced both ends of the customer service spectrum.  I had two separate companies goof up but they dealt with it in very different ways.  I found it interesting to see their reaction to the problems.

  • Company Number 1 - Did not follow through on written instructions, and were unable to deliver services as promised.
  • Company Number 2 - Was not able to keep appointment as scheduled, thus unable to deliver services as promised.
As you can see, both companies had a break down in service.  They failed to do what they said they would.  Given their mistakes both companies had a choice to make. They had to decide how to deal with it.

Years ago I heard a great quote, the basis of which I will paraphrase. "The mark of a good company is not IF they make mistakes, because every company will.  The mark of a good company is HOW they deal with the mistake."

Company Number 1 decided to not tell me about the error for 36 hours, thus causing other problems.  Their mistake could have been small, but because they didn't fess up it rippled throughout my day and caused me more problems.  I am still dealing with fall out from their choice.  I did not get the service as described and instead of problem solving to find a solution they dumped the problem on me.  The lack of service was annoying, their inability to tell me about it was inexcusable. I was forced to get the owner involved before we had a resolution.

Company Number 2 determined they were going to have a problem in the future.  They realized they had over scheduled my technician and before he was late they called to apologize.  They asked me how to best resolve the problem for my convenience.  They were concerned the technician would be unable to give me enough time to do a quality job and offered me options as solutions.  It was a little annoying to have to schedule more time for the task, however their humble apology and eagerness to make it right were refreshing.  The dispatcher who called me was able to quickly find a solution and I had no need to speak with a manager.

Now I had these two experiences within an hour of each other. Rarely do you have the chance to get such a clear view of what not to do in customer service compared to a great example of what to do.

I thought a lot about this dichotomy and reflected on other companies I have seen in action.  I know a few who have been amazing during a problem, I know other who have not.

This economy is hard on businesses, especially small and medium sized businesses.  I have seen a trend of cutting back to save cash.  Unfortunately some companies are cutting back on customer service.  I would suggest this is a bad idea.  I will never do business with Company Number 1 again, I will however recommend Company Number 2 to my friends.  The courtesy of a phone call will earn them new business.  The lack of support will cost the other company business.  What an expensive mistake.

As a consumer I want to spend my money with companies who appreciate my business.  Appreciation takes many forms, but ownership of a problem is a big first step.  I am glad I had the chance to see Company Number 2 in action during a mess up.  I have more confidence than ever in them and I look forward to our continued relationship.

Not so much for Company Number 1.

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