April 27, 2012

Breaking the Customer Promise

You need camping equipment. So off you go to the internet to start your journey. As with most online shopping experiences, choices are overwhelming, the interfaces are varied but you seem to be getting somewhere.

Then the critical event occurs. You need an actual human to answer an actual question. Oh look, there’s a customer service toll-free line to call. Perfect! Two rings, three rings and you’re on hold with an antiseptic message that assures you something about you being important and they’re really busy.

Is Help on the Way?

While on hold, you notice their site also offers an online help option through a chat interface. Well two fronts are better than one so while you’re enjoying some Pearl Jam on the xylophone you click on the link. Open, good, it appears that Janice will be serving you today.

As you watch the blinking cursor awaiting Janice’s swift and helpful response, another insipid message says something about them being sorry and they’re receiving an unusual volume of calls, and back to a snappy instrumental version of Lady Gaga booms through your handset. Janice has yet to answer your inquiry. You click the window closed and hang up the phone.

Why so Impatient?

You've been on hold for 10 minutes. What’s the big deal? Well, you have already found three other sites with more selection and this one offers free shipping. The fact that Janice’s company could be the superior choice has become irrelevant.

Some would claim they can’t serve every customer in seconds and they're right. But unfortunately, customers and potential customers don’t care. Make it simple for your customers to interact with you. No amount of SEO or marketing will help the moment someone hits a dead end.

Is my Business Important to You?

Some companies think that a handy contact us form is the best way to manage the volume of requests. It is a form featuring several boxes and a small section at the end for comments. If someone would rather use their email system, there is a sales@ or info@ or contact@ option at the bottom.

Here’s where that strategy falls flat on its face – most (all?) visitors think these emails go into a large heap of unanswered inquiries never to be seen again. I tried this recently with ten well known brands through their website and received three auto responses and no actual answers. If you've ever shopped for residential or commercial cleaning companies, this becomes an exercise in frustration.

Can You Actually Help Me?

You need camping equipment but you don’t want to drive all over town hoping to find a helpful sales person who will solve all of your needs. You want to have a plan of attack but you seem to be lost in a never ending loop of technology and no answers.

It all begins with strong leadership ensuring a minimum requirement means responding when someone wants to spend their hard earned money with you. We all want good service. Not someone to shine our shoes and make us king for a day, just good service. Yet we often have trouble finding it.

This week, I counted 11 instances where I inquired about services for my business, myself or a client and the provider lost the sale before the work even began.

Some of us are giving bad service.
Few of us would admit to being a culprit.

Kneale Mann

image: flickr
© Kneale Mann knealemann@gmail.com people + priority = profit
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