One of my favourite blog topics is Customer Service and my belief that, in general, it has suffered a continual decline over the past few years.
The thing is, companies can really set themselves aside from their competition by adopting good customer service policies, yet many fail to see that. I recently came into contact with the exact opposite sides of the spectrum and whilst I rarely complain, I found myself having to do so twice in quick succession.
Some of you may be familiar with Adwords. It can be a great tool for getting clicks to your website, though if you use Adwords, treat it with care!
Having set a monthly budget and a maximum daily spend (to ensure my monthly budget lasted a month), I was astonished to find all but the smallest percentage of my monthly budget had evaporated inside 48 hours. Needless to say, I rang the helpline to find out why.
Customer Service, Automated
After negotiating several menus and pressing several numbers to ensure I was “passed to the most appropriate person”, I found myself listening to that “on hold” music that companies seem to think you delight at hearing. 15 minutes or so passed by, with no update on a queue position, and my frustrations increased as every pan pipe note passed through my ear drum. Sadly, that time on hold turned out to be the best part of the call!
To cut a frustrating 45-minute long telephone story short, my specification had not been actioned correctly and my maximum daily budget had been effectively ignored. I was told that despite this, the fact that the money had gone so quickly was a good thing, since the ads had over-performed and as such, I should add more money to the account to take advantage whilst it was over-performing!
Needless to say, I declined this “offer” outright. I suggested they rectify the situation by refunding my money, since I should have spent only 2 days’ worth of my 30-day budget, but instead found myself with just 2 days’ worth of budget left! The gentleman persisted with his attempt to get me to spend more, seemingly not grasping my discontent.
My demand for a refund was refused, since I had supposedly received the benefit of the budget lost. However, after banging a very dissatisfied drum for some time, I was eventually offered a small financial credit as a gesture of good will. I had lost the will to live by this time, having gone around in circles several times to no avail, so I gave in and accepted the offer. In no way did it compensate me for the drained budget, but it did allow me to get off the phone and back to more meaningful activities. The result was unsatisfactory as I had suffered lost budget and lost time, and left me feeling very unhappy.
Goodbye for now … but I’ll be back
Could It Be … An Energy Supplier with Good Customer Service?
My second cause for complaint was on a personal matter. Having swapped energy supplier 3 months ago, I was annoyed to find that, on checking my bank statement, the previous supplier was still taking money out of my account, albeit a lesser sum. On investigation, the energy element had been stopped and the payments related to additional services connected with the package.
Earlier that day, I had been speaking to Adwords, so to say I was up for a fight would be an understatement. I rang … and got straight through to a person. No menus, no numbers to press, no pan pipes, just straight to a person.
My first cause for frustration had already been nullified and I was caught on the hop when a person spoke as opposed to a machine. After quickly gathering my thoughts, I explained how I had asked to cancel everything when I rang three months ago and not just the energy. The gentleman was extremely polite and immediately apologised (I’m still waiting for an apology from Adwords). He said that he couldn’t explain why my request had not been actioned originally, though he would look at my account.
He next explained that different minimum terms applied to the different package elements. He was able to cancel one element now at no cost, which he did, though if I was to cancel the other element now, there would be an early cancellation fee of circa £200. However, if I waited 43 days, the fee would be zero. He suggested I make a diary note for 43 days from now and then call him back – he gave me his name!
It was a completely different experience from that with Adwords and I felt genuinely sorry to be leaving them. As it happens, they weren’t far from being the cheapest again, but another company with good reviews pipped them. I promise you that they will be the first company I go to when I next compare prices for energy, TV or broadband. If they are in the ball park, they’ll be our next supplier again!
And the Moral of the Story Is …
These are two typical examples of ways that complaints are handled and I know which one I prefer! The thing is, mistakes happen to all of us (no matter what some would have you believe!) We’re all human after all, but the way you handle rectifying it can be crucial to your business.
When I worked behind a bar a while ago, I remember a customer complaining about his beer tasting funny. The landlady quickly apologised and offered him a fresh pint. She turned to me and said “A bad pint travels faster than a good one”. By that, she meant that word spreads far quicker about a pub serving a poor pint than a good one. That can be disastrous to any business, so be careful.
We like to think that we give our clients excellent customer service. It’s always been paramount to us, since we believe that people buy people. It’s a shame that so many companies fail to see not only the importance, but the opportunity!