Over the years, I have repeatedly heard statements on how companies pride themselves on their “customer service”. But it seems that frequently the data used to support this type of proud statement was usually company-captured.
I remember in my early sales management days at Wang Laboratories (now I’m dating myself), I received a monthly bonus for having a maintenance renewal rate of 90%. This usually wasn’t a tough sell because we were the only option in most communities for maintaining your equipment. And it was a good plan for the customer as it also insured they didn’t have a longer wait time for a technician to show up – not good with mission critical systems.
Wang would then turn around and promote a 90%+ customer satisfaction rate. Maintenance renewals played a critical role in that customer satisfaction number. It’s like your Statistics 101 class all over again. You can make the numbers support whatever you want, right?
How many times have you been hounded by a survey request from the support team at a car dealership, online financial institution or other folks immediately after they have performed some service for you? When we complete them, most people are usually pretty kind because an issue got resolved, we want good support next time or we’re just nice people. My hope is that the results from these surveys help the company to improve; but I know that they also play a critical role in the advertisements for those organizations.
Usually, when you do have a complaint, you express it immediately. I will often contact a company on their customer service site when I have an issue. We take the time then, because we now have an emotional attachment to the issue and want an opportunity to express our experience in more detail.
I think this is a good practice and I encourage it – especially when feedback (positive or negative) can be given so easily in our online world. However, I’m guessing that complaints somehow get filtered in their customer service numbers.
While all of this talk of skewed results sounds kind of depressing, there are some very real examples of true customer service that I want to share.
Less Annoying CRM – We recently moved our outbound marketing efforts in-house which required us to find a new customer relationship management solution (CRM) provider. After our research online (the new normal in the buying cycle), we reached out to Less Annoying CRM because of their product functions, cost, reviews and I liked that they are based here in St. Louis (I do support my home town).
In the six months that we have been with LACRM, they have delivered far above my expectations. Their knowledge, attitude, availability and performance are the best I have ever experienced with a solutions company. What is really impressive is that their level of service has been delivered across ALL of their people with no difference in quality experienced. I’m actually looking at how I can replicate their combination online/in-person model for my own business – I was that impressed!
Graff Faucets – Even smaller companies can get it right! Very recently I had an issue with a nine-year old kitchen sink faucet. I thought I was going to have to replace it – which would also mean hiring a plumber.
Before I did anything, I thought I would at least reach out to Graff to see if there was anything that they could do. Boy did they – and then some!
I got through to their technical team – the first time I tried – and they were amazing. Not only did they spend time trying to understand my issue, they then told me some possible fixes and showed me instructions on their website for the directions. They then asked that I get back with them immediately if I still needed additional help. To top it all off, they sent me a new sink sprayer that was acting up – at no charge.
Their instructions were right on target and I saved the cost of a new faucet – and a plumber. Plus, I got the bonus of a new sprayer!
There are a few things in common with these examples and others that I have experienced:
- While I may have leveraged some online resources initially for research or contact information, it was easy to find.
- It was personal in that I eventually spoke with a live person, with a good attitude and knowledge.
- They first sought to understand and then provide a path to problem resolution.
- They followed up with an offer for continued support until I was 100% satisfied.
While it all sounds easy, in service, we fail more than we succeed. The one thing that I believe always holds true to a behavior is that it all starts at the top. If the leadership and subsequent management is truly concerned about great customer service, it becomes easy for the customer-facing folks to deliver. This concern isn’t delivered in a memo, but instead in an attitude and behaviors that are repeatedly demonstrated.
I’ve written many times about how important my past relationships have been with our success over the past 20 years – and that is equally true with our customers. Being a person or organization that is committed to the right principles has tremendous value that isn’t always immediately seen during the sale – but is always revealed over the course of the relationship.
We will definitely continue to use and grow our business with LACRM. And when I do need a new kitchen sink faucet, it will be a Graff. I don’t need to see an advertisement from either of them. They have already embedded one in me through their customer service.
Wes Haubein is the President of HL Group, Inc., a premier provider of mobile asset inventory management, RFID and warehouse solutions. He writes regularly about management, solution integration and technology, and other areas of life and business that have impressed him.