I recently had a negative experience with a big-box pet store chain.
I signed my young 15-week old puppy for some training classes. After a 45 minute call with the trainer, she confirmed the class would start on February 6th. I went into the store the next day to pay for the class, and another manager confirmed yet again the class would start on February 6th.
When the day of the class arrived, I took time to get my puppy walked, fed, and ready to go to her first day of class. I walked into the store, went over to the training area, and then gasped! No class, instructor, nothing. I asked to speak with the manager, who rudely said, “You should have looked at your paperwork!” I informed this very young and naive manager that I was given no such paperwork and that both the trainer and other manager confirmed this was the day. With no empathy or compassion for the mistake caused by the store, this inexperienced and un-customer focused manager began to argue with me, quoting “store policy” and a host of other irrelevant excuses for their mistake.
I explained that I had taken time from other projects to make this class. The manager didn't care. I said that I have been terribly inconvenienced due to their negligence. He didn't care. When I asked him to make the situation right, he boorishly said, “Don’t ever come back to my store again!” Without asking, he proceeded to hand me $129 in cash and walked away.
This is just one example of horrible customer service that millions of consumers face on a daily basis. Companies hold consumers in shackles and force them into submission. “Comply or die” is the new customer service philosophy from most organizations. Companies have designed a process contrary to serving the customer. They have established in great detail a dysfunctional process that is the exact opposite of good service.
It’s as if they get some kind of sick satisfaction over the power they can hold over another person. It is business slavery. They hold all the power, and we have no choice but to endure their horrible service or be denied the essential services we need in life.
It is an appalling truth that needs to change.
Customers are ready to fight
Customers today expect the worst from companies. They depend on poor service and anti-consumer policies. Naturally, customers will be defensive and on-edge. Why should your business be any different than all those others? This is what your customers are thinking, so they come in with the gloves on and ready to fight. They are like Rocky Balboa facing off against Ivan Drago. They are the underdog: outmatched and outgunned. They know they probably don’t stand a chance. So, they will fight to the death. They raise their defenses and are ready to rumble.
But you have a competitive advantage over all those other businesses providing humdrum and bland experiences. You will exceed your customers’ expectations in every way and watch as the defenses come down and the money rolls in.
Sadly, the vast majority of companies today are not customer-focused. They have not made quality service a priority. They have made transactional volume and bottom-lines the mantra.
Can you afford to say “no”?
In my first book entitled The Customer Service Revolution: 8 Principles That Will Change the Way Companies Think About the Customer Experience and the Employees Who Work For Them, I shared how Richard Branson revolutionized the concept of saying “yes” to customers. He tells a story about staying in a traditional hotel and noticing several buttons on the phone for various hotel departments. They transferred him from department to department until someone could assist him. So, he put a single red button on his hotel phones. You guessed it, “YES!” is at the top of the phone. He empowered his hotel staff to take care of the guest and their needs.
Branson infused the belief that every department is committed to service excellence. Finding opportunities to say yes exceeds customer expectations by doing what they asked you to do. It seems like a radical concept now.
As consumers, we expect the answer and the experience to say no. Companies will hide behind policies favoring them. It’s what we expect and count on. This is why when a company goes above and beyond to say yes and make it happen, it is a memorable experience for the client. Saying yes to reasonable requests is the action of doing something, not just saying the word. You don’t have to use the literal
words yes and no. Rather, your actions say the same thing, and often will say it stronger and louder. Giving your customers the run-around is saying no to them. Making your customers feel bad for spending their money with you is a definite no. But creating memorable moments for them is a big yes. Honoring the lower price of a competitor is a big yes. Giving the customer an extra 10% off just for the sake of being nice is saying yes. Remember, actions speak louder than words.
In business, sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes it has to be no. I am not ignorant to this fact. But the customer should never hear this. They needto know they have options and can make the best decision for their situation.
In most cases, companies can say yes to customer requests. They just choose not to. When the answer has to be no, turn those around into mutually beneficial results for both the customer and the business.
In a 2018 survey, Salesforce found the number one demand from customers was a memorable experience. What happens when they don’t get this from your brand? 76% of respondents stated it’s easier than ever for them to take their business elsewhere—switching from brand to brand to find an experience that matches their expectations.”
Further, a Bain Capital survey found that while 80% of corporate CEO’s think they are providing “outstanding” customer experiences, only 8% of consumers actually agreed with them. That is a discrepancy of 72%! That number shows the ignorance of companies who think that by simply providing a product or service they are somehow providing great service to match.
Customers not only expect great service; they are demanding it! They want to know their business is respected and appreciated. They will search high and low for it. And when they finally receive it, chances are they will become loyal brand ambassadors. They will recommend you to their families and friends, which increases profits for your organization. If you provide great experiences and promote a customer-centric culture, your sales will boom. Do the opposite, and your business will suffer. Which side of the aisle would you rather be on?
Customers will not tolerate bad service
We as consumers should not tolerate bad service. I said it before, and I’ll say it again.
I am really tired of hearing about how we need to simply “tolerate” bad customer service. Now before you start sending me nasty emails accusing me of being insensitive, keep reading.
Of course, I don’t mean you should be insensitive, discriminatory, and rude. I have never advocated such practices. But we throw this word tolerance around as a catch-all rather than using it in its proper context. Merriam-Webster defines tolerance as “the ability or willingness to accept opinions or behavior that one
does not necessarily agree with.”
It is this last part I want to focus on: behavior we do not agree with. We are told that we need to simply “put up with” bad service. We need to turn the other cheek and accept it for what it is. My question is this. Why should we? Is there some law that says I have to allow and just accept appalling and even abusive service from a company?
According to a 2018 study by Ipsos, of the 200,000 customers surveyed, government sector customer service had the worst customer service practices in the United States. A whopping 39% of those surveyed stated interactions with government customer service is deemed the worst. Following in a close second, telecommunication companies (defined as internet, cable, and television
providers) scored at a shocking 38%. Healthcare, airlines, insurance and big-box retailers all followed this wall of shame. Sadly, it isn’t getting any better.
If anything, it’s getting worse. Why? Because we as consumers tolerate it. We allow it to continue. We continue to patronize these businesses and enable their practices to continue. By doing so, we give them a carte-blanche excuse to be noxious and unfeeling in their service.
In the logo for my consulting firm, I use two Japanese characters that spell the word kaizen. It means “good change”, but is also the embodiment of a way of life. Kaizen means to continually look for opportunities to better one’s self and surroundings. What a great concept for customer experience!
Even the most customer-centric organizations will tell you that they can always do better.
You are presented daily with an abundance of chances to be a hero in your customer’s lives. Put on your cape and make it happen for them!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
By Bryan Horn
Bryan Horn is the founder of CX Solutions, and customer experience training firm located in Salt Lake City, UT. He is the author of two successful customer service books, The Customer Service Revolution: 8 Principles That Will Change the Way Companies Think About the Customer Experience and the Employees Who Work for Them!, and Get Your Stuff and Get Out! Why Customer Service Sucks and How We Can Make It Great Again!.
He is a graduate of the world's foremost customer service development programs, namely The Zappos School of WOW!, the Disney Institute, and The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center. He was dubbed a “customer service superhero” by the UK based Clientship Partner podcast (hosted by Christopher Brooks).
For more information about Bryan, please visit www.thecsrevolution.com.
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