I can assure you we are not to blame

Many of us complain about poor service, but what do we mean?

When the wrong goods are delivered or don’t do what they’re supposed to do, there is definitely something that needs to be put right, but more often than not poor service relates to the treatment we receive rather than anything to do with physical products.

Recently, I have tried communicating four times with an international Internet retailer from whom I ordered some goods, which have not arrived. Part of the problem was my fault, but I was genuinely confused by their ordering process, which I feel was not clear to me.

What annoys me is the impossibility of any phone contact to discuss the order; the length of time it takes to receive a reply to an email; and that every reply politely points out what I should have done and invites me to re-order the items.

I have owned up to my mistake and all I want in return is an acknowledgement that I was misled by their site and some effort to investigate where my goods are. Polite responses ignoring my concerns strike me as being smug and totally oblivious to my satisfaction as a customer.

In this case, their apparent courtesy has had a negative effect.

If care and concern are not genuine, overt courteous behaviour can anger customers more than an outright insult, because it comes across as devious – even if not intentional.

A customer service representative whose role is simply to reiterate what the customer should have done and that what the company has done was correct is a waste of time and money, both for the company and the customer.

In this case, the company has had to answer four emails – how much has that cost them? As well as creating email traffic on their network, four people have had to spend time referring to earlier responses and typing four replies.

On its own, this may not seem much, but multiply this by thousands of queries and you arrive at a considerable cost spent maintaining a redundant resource that is neither satisfying the customer nor creating any value for the company.

Also, I have told the company that it has lost my future custom – it’s no skin off my nose as there are hundreds of alternative suppliers.

Companies relying on the masses to purchase from them need to care about their customers, because fashions change in a flash, leading consumers to switch brands without warning – their customers could literally vanish overnight and one day they will.

However sophisticated their technology, however advanced their marketing strategies, companies need to consider the feelings of every single customer.

Not caring about the small percentage of transactions that go wrong is dangerous. Putting themselves out to satisfy customers in these instances actually gives companies an opportunity to shine and strengthen customer loyalty.

And courteous behaviour should be the result of care for the customer – even when, like me, they have made a mistake.

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