Could Your Customer Service Be a Nightmare?

frustrationI just escaped from customer service hell. I was on the phone with the bank trying to make a simple transfer of funds from account A to account B.

Should be easy. It wasn’t. They’ve been taken over by another bank, changed their prompts, and added more steps. My pin number was messed up and I couldn’t make the transfer.

So I called the 800 number, and sat on hold, typing as I listened to musak, wondering what happened to the friendly, helpful bank I used to do business with.

I had to wait and wait, but finally got connected to someone who made my transfer for me. Next up, fixing the pin number.

The rep said, you need to talk to the branch (and transferred me). The branch said, you need to call the 800 number. Argghh!!!

It took a couple more rounds, a call back, resetting the passwords to the default, and then calling and resetting each account to straighten it all out.

The lessons for marketing

  • Make it easy for your customers to interact with you.
  • Don’t add extra steps to transactions. The fewer buttons, fewer fields and fewer forms, the better.
  • Double-check your work. Test everything before it goes live.
  • Mistakes do happen. If you make one, admit the error and fix it.
  • Don’t send people round and round from person to person. If you don’t know the answer, offer to find out, and call the customer back.

Thank You For Complaining?

complaint department imageA few days ago, I got an unwanted marketing email from Ted’s Montana Grill. They had sponsored a recent HARO happy hour I’d signed up for, but that was my only contact with them. I had no relationship with them, and hadn’t given them permission to contact me.

I was pretty shocked and sent Peter an email complaining that sponsorship didn’t equal permission. He told me he’d make sure I was removed from their list.

Yesterday, someone from Ted’s called me from their headquarters in Atlanta. Apparently, their email service provider had a glitch. She thanked me repeatedly for complaining and bringing the problem to their attention!

Pretty remarkable.

Contrast this with Lexis/Nexis’s failure to manage a simple directory listing process. (I’ve spent over three hours trying to update a client’s listing and it’s still not right. Among other things, they’ve managed to misspell his name). It’s been over a month and it’s still not resolved.

Complaints can be an opportunity. If you get one, try to fix the problem. If you keep getting the same complaint (as Lexis admitted keeps happening), your customers are trying to tell you something. Listen to them.

Photo: wikimedia

What Every Company Ought to Know About Customer Service

customer service screamThe New York Public Library web site is broken (is this contagious?). Two days ago they uploaded a bright, shiny new site that lets you tag books, create lists, and gives better search options (such as only e-books or only books in Chinese). The trouble is, that you can’t log in. So, you can search and find the book you want, but you can’t actually reserve it (or see the status of your current holds).

Be Sympathetic

After fighting with it on and off for an hour, I called the help desk. To their credit, someone answered within a minute. He said they were getting 80 calls an hour, and to try again in a day or two. He told me what was going on, but he was awfully grumpy about it. I got the feeling he wanted to get off the phone as quickly as possible.

Now, if you’re having a problem, why not communicate better to your customers? Things do go wrong, but when they do, make sure your customer reps are polite, pleasant, and well-informed about the situation. Encourage them to sympathize with the customers’ plight (hey, I’m a book addict, I need my fix!), not push them away.

Explain the Situation

And, put up a quick note on your home page: Sorry, we’re having problems with our system right now. We hope to get it fixed by Thursday. Meanwhile, we’re suspending all fines so you won’t get penalized for books you can’t renew.

React Quickly (and Publicly)

UPDATE: I wrote most of this post last night. There’s now a note on the site, saying they’re having difficulties. Unfortunately, it took over 24 hours for them to publicly acknowledge the situation.

If you have a problem, don’t wait that long to tell your customers!

Photo: oddsock