Customer Service Culture - Don't Let One Bad Apple Hurt Your Brand
One bad customer (or bad experience) can lead you down a negative path and damage your customer service, if you let it.
It’s good to have relationships you can count on whether it’s your neighborhood grocery store, your bank, or the airline that takes you to family every Christmas. Of course we want their businesses to excel, but we also count on them to at least desire our business enough to treat us fairly and with respect. Here’s how it works: you give me a good deal or good service and I will continue to give you my business.
Businesses institute all kinds of policies and limitations, and enough rules to choke a horse for a variety of reasons, but mostly because of a prior bad act or experience that had nothing to do with you. Recently I was dealing with a new vendor and needed them to ship the product (my books) overnight from the east coast to Texas. I butted heads with the company because they absolutely wouldn’t make such a shipment until my credit check came back satisfactory – a credit check that would take three days! Maybe some knucklehead had stiffed them on a shipping fee in their history and now I couldn’t get my product overnight unless I paid cash (and lots of it). One bad apple . . .
Have you implemented some rule or limitation in your business thinking you’re protecting yourself from any risk or loss all because of one bad apple? No returns after 30 days. No credit to students or persons without a certain or spotless credit history. No need to believe a customer is serious if they are under or over a certain age. No warranty unless the customer can prove the defect or damage was from the factory and not the customer’s fault. Believe it or not, there is a name for this: it’s called customer profiling and is taught and supported by those in the world who believe one bad apple means all apples are bad. The effect of such fear practices sends a loud and clear negative message to your revenue stream: the customer. I am sure your intent was/is to protect your business; but your business is nothing without loyal customers. You need to determine what message your policies are sending, how they are shaping your customer service culture -- and if they may ultimately be killing your customer service!
Speaking of customer service . . . We have all heard the story of the Nordstrom clerk taking back a tire when Nordstrom obviously doesn’t even sell tires! How many times do you think they have been burned on returned items that were not even purchased at a Nordstrom store? I’ll bet a lot. And yet, they haven’t (and won’t) insert a new policy to “protect” themselves from cheats. Instead, they coach their people that the majority of customers are good people, and those customers are the ones that keep their doors open. By the way, the Nordstrom company policy (since 1901) has remained the same: offer the customer the best possible service, selection, quality and value. And since 1901, this culture of customer service has served them very, very well.
Another case in point: Apple, Inc. Sure, Apple has had huge technological ideas and sales. And, while it may be true that innovation brings in the new customers, it’s the exceptional customer service culture that keeps them loyal to Apple. Just the other day, my MacBook Pro had a small problem that I couldn’t fix. I took it in to the Apple Genius Bar where one of the experts, after giving it his best, admitted he couldn’t fix it either. He then offered to send it out promising it would be fixed and returned to me in one week. I explained that his solution wouldn’t work for me because I had a keynote in two days in front of 500 people and I needed my MacBook for the presentation. He didn’t say it wasn’t their policy to help me; he just went to his manager and explained to her the situation. Here is how he and his manager solved the problem: they gave me a brand new (and more powerful) MacBook! How cool is that? I was so impressed and excited at how I was treated, I told all 500 people at the keynote how Apple made their event better. That’s 500 more people in one day who now view Apple favorably. How’s that for a return on customer service?
I should tell you that I originally started writing this article because I had two negative experiences with vendors in the last 30 days. Each of these vendors had implemented restrictive policies as a result of their bad experiences with other customers. In other words, they brought new negative restrictive polices into our relationship through no fault of mine. I was pissed at them and thought they deserved a little bad publicity. I was even going to name names, but I won’t. Here’s why.
A couple of days ago I started working with a new marketing team, The Cadence Group, to promote my new book Cool Conversations. After discussing my needs with Amy, the owner, she informed me that I didn’t need to pay her until she met and exceeded my expectations. In just those few minutes, Amy treated me as a valued client. She offered me, the customer, her best possible service, selection, quality and value. And guess what? That is exactly how I want to treat her in return: I want to pay her right now!
You get what you give. You attract positive when you give positive; and, conversely, you attract negative if you talk or give negative. It was in thinking about positive businesses like yours and The Cadence Group, who value their customers, when I changed my mind about trashing the vendors who pissed me off. You reminded me of my choices, and I chose to take the high road and remain positive. By the way, I also decided to find a new shipping vendor on the east coast who values my business!