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Customer Service

More Examples of Good and Bad Customer Service: When Will Businesses Get It Right?

As a society that is driven by meeting the needs of consumers via goods and services, one would assume that treating the customer right would be priority number one.  The ability to meet and exceed customers’ needs is what essentially makes or breaks any business.

Sadly many businesses completely miss the mark when it comes to customer service.  As I have highlighted before, there are many good and bad apples out there, and once again, I recently experienced both above par and well-below-par customer service.   Here are a couple more examples:

  • Stevens’ Battery Warehouse: When I had the air conditioning compressor fixed in my SUV a few months ago, the mechanic told me that my battery was on its last legs.  Not wanting to take any chances, I recently headed to Steven’s Battery Warehouse in Annapolis, MD.  In the parking lot, a technician pleasantly greeted me and replaced my battery in a matter of 15 minutes.  Had I gone to a larger automotive supply shop, I would have had to wait for hours for this simple service to be completed.  Way to go Steven’s Battery Warehouse!
  • Bad Brakes = Bad Service: Along the lines of more automotive troubles, I had to get new brakes installed in my car and the dealer quoted me a price of $250.00, which seemed reasonable compared to other quotes I received in the ballpark of $700.00.  Shortly after arriving at home the dealer called me and told me the real price would be $500.00.  When I asked why the price doubled, I was told that the original quote was only for the front brakes. What a bad way to provide a cost estimate:  low ball upfront and then spring the real price on the customer once the car is apart and in the shop.
  • Endless Calls to Comcast: In the wake of Hurricane Irene, I called Comcast to inquire as to when my Internet and cable would be restored and pressed option “1” asking them to call me back with an update on my service being restored – since they were dealing with a heavy influx of calls at that time that seemed reasonable.  To date they have not called back, by the way.  When my power was restored, I called their “national call center” – which was most likely in India or the Philippines – and I was advised that the entire state of Maryland was without service.  Although my neighbors had their service restored, so I called again.  I was assured that my service would be restored in a few hours.  On my 4th call I was advised that a trouble ticket had never been submitted even though my account was noted.  Four hours later my service was restored.  Had a trouble ticket been submitted earlier my service would have undoubtedly been restored sooner.  And, when I inquired about getting a credit for the downtime, they told me I had to call them back again.  Surely, natural disasters are a major challenge for companies like Comcast, but this was a case study in what not to do with regards to customer service.

On the positive side, my experience with Steven’s Battery Warehouse was absolutely phenomenal and it reinforced my belief in providing outstanding service.  On the flip side, my experience with getting new brakes left a sour taste in my mouth.

Customer service is paramount and there are those who strive for excellence and those that fall very short. Perhaps one day all businesses will fully understand the simplest tenet to achieving business success is that customer service is the key to profitability and it all comes from efficiently satisfying the customer.  And be careful, one bad customer service story can catch on like wildfire over social media sites like Facebook and Twitter!

Posted by: Diann Turner, Director, Business Development, NetLink Resource Group

Sometimes Bad Customer Service Reminds Us That There’s No Room for Sacrificing Quality

Many businesses tout quality service as being the hallmark of their entire mission.  And as we have highlighted before, there are some business doing some incredibly outstanding things when it comes to service.

Though all it takes is one or two bad apples to remind us that there are some companies out there that are missing the mark when it comes to quality service. Following are a couple of glaring real-life examples of poor customer service.  If you will, we have been kind enough to change the names to protect the guilty.

First my neighbor had a daunting experience with a major provider of home furnishings and accessories.  She called the local store and could never get anybody to return her calls regarding the new kitchen counters she was having installed.  As such, my neighbor had to make several 40-mile trips to the actual store to get somebody to respond to her issue.  All of this could have been handled easily over the phone – if only someone had called her back.

The second example is regarding my son and a major insurance provider.  My son’s truck was hit by a person driving without a license and who did not have permission to drive the car – resulting in several thousands of dollars of damage to my son’s truck.  Since it was hit from behind, the repair shop felt that the truck should have been totaled because of damages that impacted the transmission.  The insurance company opted to have it repaired – as opposed to deeming it “totaled.” Now the transmission is fully shot and it will cost my son $5,000 to install a new one.   And by the way, the insurance company never sent anyone out to look at the vehicle again, return phone calls or re-open the claim.  Once this issue is resolved…if it ever is, my son is switching to a competitive insurance provider, which means the insurance carrier is losing a customer of more than 15 years.

In today’s hyper-connected world, all it takes is for a few bad customer service stories to make their way through the world of social media and then a company has a real public relations nightmare on their hands.

My advice to these companies is to take a page from Nordstrom, Trader Joes’s, Marriott and others by simply making quality service their top priority.

Posted by: Diann Turner, Director, Business Development, NetLink Resource Group

In Today’s Marketplace, It’s All About Going Above and Beyond

In order to stay competitive in today’s marketplace you truly have to go above and beyond the call of duty.   From a customer service perspective, this means doing things to best serve the customer at all times.

When I hear examples of  great customer service I like to share them.  What follows are two examples that  are truly inspiring.

Each year, for Christmas or her birthday, my 81-year old mother’s best friend Ms. Ruby, who is 92 years old by the way, always contacts me for gift ideas.  Since Ms. Ruby is not accustomed to e-commerce and doesn’t drive, she still calls up area department stores directly to order whatever she wants to purchase.  Typically the stores very graciously have the purchases mailed.

Just the other day Ms. Ruby ordered a gift from Nordstrom in Annapolis only to discover that the sales person lived near her.  Much to Ms. Ruby’s delight, the sales person offered to drop the gift off on her way home from work.  Yes, you heard that correctly, the Nordstrom sales associate personally delivered the gift herself — and within a 6 hour time-frame

Ms. Ruby has also had similar experiences with Trader Joe’s when ordering gift cards.   Upon her first call to the nearest Trader Joe’s (some 45 minutes away) she learned that an employee also lived nearby.  She too  provided Ms. Ruby with door-to-door service by actually delivering the card to her home and has done so subsequent occasions.

Talk about going above and beyond…

As we have highlighted before, there are a number of organizations that truly ‘walk the walk’ when it comes to service.  These stories are a shining light and reinforce that it is often the individual employee who goes above and beyond.

As a provider of custom web application solutions, we don’t have the luxury of being able to drop off a purchased good at a client’s office, though we do take a similar approach of going above and beyond – even if it means working through the night to ensure that the launch of a web application is successful – to make sure our customers are has happy as Ms. Ruby.

Do you have any inspiring customer service stories to share?

Posted by: Diann Turner, Director, Business Development, NetLink Resource Group

In the Name of Service: Those Who ‘Walk The Walk’

The definition of service is “work done for others as an occupation or business.”  We would agree with this basic tenet, but the idea of service goes much, much deeper than this simple concept.  Service is really the foundation for business growth, competitive differentiation, success and prosperity.  It’s really about going that extra distance – whether expected to or not – to please customers and clients.

Of course, there are different degrees of service.  Some companies claim that they focus on stellar service, but never really deliver.  While other organizations both talk the talk and walk the walk.

Following are companies that we believe are true pioneers in service.

  • Nordstrom: Since 1901, national clothing and show retailer Nordstrom has stuck by the unchanged philosophy that the key to success is to offer the customer the best possible service, selection, quality and value. Nordstrom is so renowned for its customer service that it actually had a book written about it called “The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence: A Handbook For Implementing Great Service in Your Organization.”
  • Marriott International: The Fortune 500 global pioneer in lodging has a long history for providing top-notch service.  The company trains its administrative assistants to step in as banquet servers, and one time a Marriott associate literally gave the pants off his legs to a customer.  On a personal note, I checked into a Marriott hotel for a three-day business trip that was ultimately cancelled three hours after I arrived.  Rather than being charged for one night (when I was only in the room for three hours), they did not charge me anything upon check out.
  • Southwest Airlines: From devising a foolproof system for easily and quickly boarding passengers to training all of their flight attendants to add a bit of fun during flights, Southwest is rightly known for providing excellent service.  For example, the airline once offered two free roundtrip vouchers to passengers who were stuck during a 5-hour de-icing delay.  Most airlines leave passengers hanging whenever there is a weather issue – not Southwest.
  • L.L. Bean: According to a Bloomberg/Business Week Survey, catalog/Internet retailer L.L. Bean was ranked number one in customer service because of its lenient returns policy, inexpensive outdoor gear and clothing, and the fast responses from its Maine call centers.  Bean also offers free shipping to its credit-card holders, including free returns.  When the company closed a call center, it offered the displaced employees the opportunity to work from home.

From giving a hotel guest a pair of pants for an important business meeting to giving away free flight vouchers, all of these companies stand out for one simple reason:  they go above and beyond to meet and exceed customers’ needs.

In addition, many of these companies use the web to differentiate their businesses, as well as offer information and tools to better serve their customers.  As information technology serves as a major enabler for allowing firms to gain competitive advantages with their business processes, it ultimately also allows them to offer top-notch customer service.

These iconic companies are breaking new boundaries in terms of service.  At NetLink Resource Group, we strive to be as service-oriented as these companies.

Posted by: Diann Turner, Director, Business Development, NetLink Resource Group