How can some companies deliver awesome customer service while others get it so totally wrong?!
I want to share a personal story of disinterested client support with you this week. From it, I have drawn seven learnings for everyone wanting to deliver awesome customer service and build loyal advocates.
Let me start by saying that it still puzzles me why any organisation would have trouble offering superior customer service when there are so many great examples they merely have to copy. (JetBlue, Sainsbury’s, Amazon, Zappos) In fact, Mark Earls wrote a great book on exactly this topic, called Copy, Copy, Copy which I highly recommend.
This story is just one example of how some companies still struggle to accept that the customer is right, even when they’re wrong! Not that I was wrong in this case (at least I don’t think so, but I’ll let you be the judge of that).
However, the company concerned certainly gave me the impression that they believed I might have been trying to cheat them with the information I provided in my emails. They were never satisfied with what I sent, even when it was what THEY had specifically requested!
Perhaps they were just dragging out the process hoping not to have to “pay up”. You can see for yourself below, or just jump to the seven learnings at the end of the post so that you can avoid making the same mistakes yourself.
Many years ago I bought a TomTom guidance system to help me navigate the streets of American cities.
I love to drive and feel just as much at home on a 26-lane Los Angeles highway as the two-lane Swiss autoroute system. (If you’re interested in which Californian road is 26 lanes wide, it’s the I-5/I-405 interchange.) However, after making many impromptu visits to unplanned US destinations I decided it was time to get a mobile GPS to use in my rental cars.
A few years on, I thought that it could also help me in Europe, even Switzerland, when trying to locate a new client or contact. (My car at the time was almost fifteen years old and wasn’t equipped with a GPS!) I, therefore, added Europe to my online account, since my model couldn’t keep both in memory at the same time!
Last May I replaced the European maps with my American ones as I was visiting Florida that month. When I tried to reinstall the European maps in September, they had somehow disappeared from my account. I contacted TomTom customer service to ask how I could get my maps back and this is how our conversation went over the pursuing three months – with their worst English mistakes removed or corrected for better comprehension, but their own font bolding left in. (!)
The Exchange with TomTom
Me: “Hi there, I contacted you in May about changing from European to US maps. I now want to change back and the maps are no longer on my account! Help please!!!”
TomTom: “Dear Denyse, … As per your account details (…), I am sorry to inform you that, I could not see any map of Europe being active on the account in the past. Hence, I am unable to see any European map details. Hence, if the map had come pre-installed with the device, I request you to please provide me the picture of the box (front face of the box) so that I can activate it on your account. If you had purchased the map of Europe, then please provide me the scanned copy of the purchase receipt of the map so that I can activate it…” (We already exchanged a few months previously and anyway didn’t they READ my email?!)
Me: “Here attached please find the invoice concerning my purchase.”
TomTom: “Denyse, many apologies, but it seems the purchase invoice is not attached in the correct format since I am unable to open it. Hence, I request you to please send me the scanned copy of purchase receipt in PDF format so that I will be able to view it and help you accordingly.” (They can’t open an email with an image when they had originally asked for a picture of the box?! OK, well it’s true it wasn’t in pdf format!!!)
Me: “Apologies for my delay in responding but I have been busy with trips – without my TomTom! As requested, I attach a PDF of the invoice.”
TomTom: “Denyse, I would require the purchase receipt of the map of Europe that must have been provided to you after you purchased it. If you are unable to find the receipt of the map, please provide me the picture of the box (front face of the box) to check the device details.”
Me: “Please find enclosed the invoice for the Europe maps that have disappeared from my account after replacing them with the US ones for a trip…”
TomTom: “Denyse, we are unable to find the invoice of the map on the attached documents. I would request you to take a screen shot of the entire invoice or the part which has the order number and the date of purchase and the details of purchase.” (They can’t read the email that THEY sent to me when I made the purchase and now want a screen shot!)
Me: “This is already what I attached to my previous email. Here it is again.”
TomTom: “Denyse, the attachment that you are sending us is the screenshot of the email that you have received from TomTom. I would request you to send us the invoice which is sent as an attachment in PDF format with the email. Kindly download the invoice on your computer and while replying to this email, please attach the PDF file on your reply.” (Isn’t a screenshot what they asked for?!!)
Me: “Is TomTom just trying to irritate a long-standing customer? I have replied to each email with the requested information and each time you come back asking for a different format. You have the order number, the date, the item and the relevant item code of the maps I purchased directly from you online; what difference does the format of the document have? This is how the attachment appears on a Mac, which obviously you are not aware of, so I resend you the attachment as a pdf.”
This last exchange seemed to wake them up! Finally, they accepted that they had all the information they needed to confirm that I had indeed purchased the European maps, so they could once again reactivate them!
It took three months to get what I had requested, which could easily have been shortened to about three minutes if their customer services had had access to our previous email exchange – I am here assuming that they didn’t, because otherwise I would be extremely “disappointed”.
The Seven Learnings
This is a great case study, as it shows numerous errors that so many organisations are still making in terms of customer care.
You might want to consider these takeaways to avoid similar long-drawn-out – and resource-wasting – exchanges with your customers.
1. The customer is right and has a valid request. This should always be assumed until such time as it is proven otherwise. After all, this is the premise of the legal systems in most countries and for good reason. It is also an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.
An piece in the Huffington Post questioned this well-known customer service quote, first coined in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of the Selfridges department store in London. In today’s fast-paced world, I believe that a customer’s satisfaction should always come first.
Sometimes, the customer does not have a valid request, and then he is clearly wrong. However, this should not stop the customer being treated with respect and the company doing everything possible to resolve the issue.
With more choices than ever before, the way a company treats its customers has become a key differentiator. In fact, 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. However, only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. (Source: CEI Survey)
So these are the seven learnings that I took away from this incident. Basic? Yes sure, but instead of just saying to yourself “I know this” ask yourself “Do we do this – always?”.
Perhaps one of these learnings might explain why your customers are not as loyal as you would like, or that you don’t get the recommendations you desire. It is surprising how many of the basic elements we forget to check as we advance in experience – and years!
If you’d like to optimise your own customer care service, contact us and we’ll assess your situation. Your organization’s success could be waiting at the end of our call.
This post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity.
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