As a small business owner I'm grateful for those occasions when I experience poor customer service.
Unfortunately, they happen way too often. But I'm grateful for those occasions nonetheless because, when I'm on the receiving end of poor service, it serves as a strong reminder of why each and every customer needs to receive first class care!
It's easy to be nice at first, to be nice when they're nice, to be nice because we think we'll make a sale. But where the rubber meets the road is when the potential customer becomes a customer, and a problem occurs. What happens then is what makes the difference.
Unfortunately, we humans are pretty fickle and while we may love certain service providers today, when all is well, God help them if they mess up tomorrow and then don't handle and resolve our complaint seriously, graciously and promptly. While customer service has always been important, it is even more important in today's online age where our brand reputation, good and bad, can spread quickly and be unforgiving.
Great customer service experiences are reminders of how good it feels to be treated respectfully, with value and care. When we're on the receiving end of poor customer service it can be a reminder of what NOT to do and how important it is to always give the client the benefit of the doubt, whether we feel they deserve it or not.
A reputation that has taken months and years to build can be pretty much destroyed in a few minutes by a bad customer service experience. Conversely, brand reputation can be strengthened even further by a bad experience handled well.
Last year I observed this first hand. I'd been working with a particular web hosting company for many of my clients and was in the process of setting up a new account for a new client. It was a comedy of errors ... but not at all funny at the time. A number of small things happened that were time consuming and frustrating. They were all resolved, but in the process of getting there, there was a huge opportunity for the company to be bureaucratic and make us jump through hoops to address the problems.
This company is generally excellent to deal with. But for a few minutes (I mentioned about being fickle, right?) they almost lost my business. Now this is sad because they had been absolutely fantastic in every regard over the previous year dealing with a good two dozen websites.
Thankfully in the end they lived up to the reputation they had built with me, and in the marketplace, and we moved past the problem. The person I was dealing with on this issue, and that almost lost my business (I was ticked), ended up resolving the issues without me having to jump through hoops, which is as it should be.
In the end, if I had decided to move my business elsewhere, it wouldn't have been the problems that cost them my business, it would have been how they handled the problem.
It may not seem right that one bad customer service experience could cost them my business, but it happens every day. But this is often reversible if a business goes out of its way to make things right, in the customer's mind.
Customer service has always been important. But we are seriously operating in a new climate today. The online world makes the good, the bad and the ugly sides of customer service much more visible today and as a result has even greater potential to positively or negatively impact our bottom-line.
It's virtually impossible to please 100% of our customers 100% of the time. But it's a noble objective to desire and pursue! And if we're serious about this, having disgruntled customers, whether their concerns are legitimate or not, will not sit right with us.
In the end, great customer service is not about being perfect and it is much more than a smile. But aiming for unachievable perfection and to deliver customer service with a smile is a good place start.
Note: The web hosting company referred to in this article, and that I continue to use is HostGator - this is not an affiliate link.