I just had a great experience with a local Wireless Telecom provider, Northwind Wireless. It didn’t start out as a great experience, but it ended up as one.
In a nutshell, our wireless speed had plummeted over the course of a few days to something marginally above dial-up. So I sent an email to their support line. Within 20 minutes, I received both an email AND telephone call from a terrific guy named Ian. He explained the situation, apologized profusely and told me what they were doing to fix it. Wow. Can anyone even imagine getting a response like that from Bell, Rogers, Telus, Comcast or any other internet provider?
What made it a good experience? Well, the bottom line is that I felt like I was an important customer to them, and that they cared about how happy I was. And it reminded me of why outstanding customer service has become such a critical piece to business success in general.
Customers are pretty demanding these days. That’s something everyone in business can agree on. But it’s not until you really start to think about it that you start to understand why. It’s not that people are grouchier – it’s just that our expectations have accelerated off the charts over the last decade.
I remember the 80’s, for example, back when I had a real job. If clients needed to contact me, they had only two options. They could drive to my office, or call me. If I wasn’t in, they would leave a message with my secretary, who would dutifully write it down on a little pink piece of paper with the header “While You Were Out…” , and stack it on top of the other messages. Because I was out and about a lot, it wasn’t unusual for it to be one or two days before I would actually get back to someone. My clients accepted that, because that was the speed of business at the time.
Things have changed a little bit.
Now, if clients want to connect with me, they want to connect NOW. They can call the office, they can call my cell, text me, email me, tweet me, message me, facebook me, skype with me. It doesn’t matter if I am on the other side of the planet (which is often the case). If two whole hours go by without them hearing back, they begin to think I just don’t care.
I can order a book and get it tomorrow. I can transfer funds from one place to another at the speed of light. I can write a blog post that’s seen by thousands over the course of a few minutes. The list goes on.
The net result, of course, is that customer expectations have reached a point where it is often impossible to meet them, even with the best of intentions. The net result of that, is a dramatic increase in perceived service failures, with a corresponding decrease in customer loyalty. The only weapon a company has in their arsenal that can prevent unmet customer expectations from turning into customer defections is customer service.
The reason for this is simple: Even though we do have often unrealistic expectations, most of us understand that no one, and no company, is perfect. As long as we believe that we are not being taken for granted; as long as we believe we are not being intentionally cheated or lied to; as long as we believe that the organization we are dealing with genuinely cares about us, we will give it a mulligan or two.
Customer service trumps perfection every time.
The Belding Group is a global leader in customer service training, and customer experience consulting and measurement