business, customers

The Silent Death of Customer Avoidance

Somewhere it got lost in translation that customer responsiveness was the selfish desire of the “gotta have it now generation.” With clicks and posts there is some 30-second rule that everyone should be responded too right now, and I mean 15 seconds ago!!  Sure it’s true. Our attention spans have steadily fallen as the speed of technology has picked up, but ask yourself: is it the speed of customer service that is most important? Or, is it the lack of any customer service that is killing off business?

Think about your last attempts to contact a business:

The Phone Call:  Yes the dreaded dial into the super annoying world of auto response. Oh, it’s fast.  The automated voice picks up on the first ring, but thereafter you might feel like Sandra Bullock in the movie Gravity….floating off in space trying desperately to pull yourself back onto ship!  Hit one to leave a message, hit two for directory….we enter our account numbers at least two times and then, when the representative does get on the phone, we are asked again for the account number– along with your mother’s maiden name, birth date, and last four digits of our social security number. I remember a time you could hit “0” and get a voice, now we just scream into the phone, “Representative, REPRESENTATIVE!”


The Call Transfer:  So twenty minutes wasn’t enough to get to the heart of your problem, now we get transferred over to the “right” department–which is different from the button we chose on that very long automated message.  Some reps are kind enough to give you a direct number (which is never, ever listed on the website) in case we get dropped from the line. There is more often than not, at least one drop, but on a good day, we get to go back into the automated world and start punching in our account number again.  We sigh when they ask why we are calling, drop key details in hopes that things will move along faster.  We now remember the last four digits our social security number instead of mouthing the whole thing out silently. We are resolved to spending more time, more information, and listening to that horrible hold music while they check into our account.

The Survey: When we hang up, my personal favorite customer service response is the survey. It comes within minutes into our email box.  It prompts us to recall the very last interaction with a series of questions rated on a scale from one to ten of our happiness and our  “willingness to recommend their company to others.” (I guess they didn’t read the last eight I already did!)These surveys are either too short and irrelevant or too long and confusing to finish. When done, we are really tapped out over the issue and the experience is something we complain about to anyone who is within earshot.

Follow the Money: So you think it’s just the big guys who fall off the customer bandwagon?  Think again, there are plenty of small companies who have really lost touch with customers.  You know the ones I am talking about.  The specialty businesses that lay off all their people and now use only voice mail.  Voice mail?  OK, it’s a 90’s thing, but we get it.  Leave a message and hope and pray that someone will call you back.  I recently overheard a friend call a small, but prominent wedding venue. Her bubbly bride-to-be voice mail was so hilarious and over-excited.  But believe it or not, it took two days for her to get a call back, and the part-timer who did call her back was annoyed and dismissive when it came to setting up a viewing date, “Your date is too far away to get an appointment,” she said. Really?  What is your mission statement? You should be thrilled this girl got engaged and is looking to drop 20K on your place of employment!

Human Contact: Our tech savvy world is missing something very essential: human contact.  We want to be responded too in a reasonable time frame (less than 24 hours) by a human person who, preferably, has some sense of understanding as to why people come to you in the first place. And why wouldn’t a company want to be helpful to a customer?  (They still need customers, right?)  I know, customers take you away from your paperwork and team meetings, but isn’t it those pesky people who pay you money for your products and services?

Pay Attention. Large companies are being slowly and silently bled of their customers by smaller and more personal ones.  Big companies don’t carry the same clout anymore because consumers are finding newer, smaller businesses to meet and respond to their needs.  And established smaller companies are vulnerable too.  All that whining and complaining about staff cuts, budget shortages, and the economy….do they really think we care? Take the call, be nice, act excited about the opportunity to give us what we want!

Lost Revenue.  Lost revenue starts with one or two orders that never get placed because there was no timely follow-up.  Lost revenue continues when one or two customers hang up on the automated system and then shift their accounts elsewhere.  Our time is valuable and with each new business out there that reminds us that we, the customer, matter, another account is lost.  One by one we fall off the screen and become inactive users.  One by one we begin to post our happiness on Instagram, tumblr, and yes, even Facebook.  Our friends ask us why we love that new place so much, they share our posts, repin our pins, we talk about it over drinks, and then we forget the bad experiences of the old, and start looking for new ones that offer the same happy (social media worthy) experiences we desire.

To Do List: It is never outdated to treat customers like they are the most important part of your business. Consider hiring a receptionist who sounds as happy as a bride-to-be.  Check your email more often. Respond to Yelp and other reviews in a timely manner. And most important, have a plan to respond to the people (angry or happy) who matter the most, your customer…who, by the way, is holding on line two about his order that got messed up.

What do you think? Speed or Service?

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