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Customer (dis)service is running rife

Hardly a day goes by without me coming up against examples of poor service – either something that I have experienced personally or related by a colleague or friend.

Far from improving their relationship with customers, my assessment is that businesses are disconnecting themselves further from what their customers want. They are simply designing the service around the product, meeting the “hygiene” factor by offering the basics that their customers presume they will provide (restaurants that are clean, hotels with hot running water). However, they are failing to put themselves in the shoes of their customers so they can manage both obvious and unexpected interactions.

Take HP – when I asked if the advertised next day delivery was really next day, I was told: “there are no guarantees in life.”

Trying to pay duty on a product I had ordered from the US  resulted in a “conversation” with an automated voice at DHL – on a costly premium rate 0870 line; when I finally got through to a real person, I was told I had to pay via an automated voice– not something I was prepared to do.

Macdonald hotels could not provide hot chocolate for a colleague at breakfast – the excuse being they had had a children’s party the previous day and had run out; so adults don’t drink chocolate?

And when someone ordered a rare steak at dinner they were told: “I would not do that if I were you.”

Why does the check-in at the Melia White House London require you to stand in a narrow space defined by a post and rope so you are made to feel as if you are queuing at a Post Office or underground station? Not a great first introduction.

These are just a few examples that demonstrate how businesses are failing to reach out and meet their customers – both figuratively and actually.

So how can businesses improve their customer service?

  1. Recruit staff who demonstrate they have empathy
  2. Train staff to own a customer’s problem and solve it with a smile
  3. Encourage satisfied customers to be brand advocates – customers will not make a recommendation unless they are asked

Company bosses need to make sure they vigorously test their service – constantly - with mystery shopping and customer feedback forms analysed and acted upon. It is not good enough to simply “open a door” and expect customers to fly in.  If they do and the service, or offer, is not what they expect, then it is so, so easy for the disaffected to voice their opinions to the world via social media and the brand is tarnished, at the very least, and mortally damaged at worst.

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