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Viewpoint: Where, oh where, can good customer service be?

Liz Engel Clark
Thursday, Jun 6, 2013

Is it just me, or has customer service gone by the wayside?

At the risk of sounding like I’m on a soapbox, I’d like to air my most recent grievances in regard to that thought, if for no other reason than as an outlet to vent. Because I really, really need to vent.

But, maybe this column can serve another purpose, too. To put businesses on notice and remind them that customer service is still a crucial lifeblood to ensuring their success. I’ll be happy if my egregious experiences can be a learning experience for anyone, let alone myself.

So here’s the situation: To date, there are three companies on my thou-shall-do-no-business-with list, and they’ve all been put there over the last few months. While every fiber in my body wishes to air these particular offenders, it’s probably in the best interest of the UCBJ not to name them (at least in the formal sense). Let’s just say one is a global shipping company, one is a maker of baby products, like strollers, while the other is an airline. Don’t even get me started on the airline…

To catch you up, Company A failed to deliver a package by a crucial deadline, even though I paid a healthy sum insuring that would happen, while Company B’s product just failed after a handful of uses. Company C, meanwhile, lost some luggage, as Company C often seems to do. Yes, companies make mistakes – customers do, too - but what they all have in common is a horrible customer service experience that definitely failed to right the ship – and further exemplified their wrongs and shortcomings.

Did you know that, in the U.S., 71 percent of customers will END a business relationship due to a poor customer service experience? Include me in that group. That survey by Get Satisfaction, a community platform for creating engaging customer experiences, also found that those businesses lose an estimated $83 BILLION every year as a direct result. And, Contact Solutions, a customer self-service solutions provider, says that 48.1 percent of respondents share their bad customer service experiences on social media, which means your bloops and blunders are likely going viral via Facebook, Twitter and more. Mine most certainly did.

And while things are certainly stronger in terms of customer spending, shoppers have yet to completely loosen their spending belts, meaning service satisfaction is still ever a factor in deciding where those dollars ultimately go. It should come standard that your employees exude professionalism, communicate clearly (and in a timely fashion), and advocate for the customer AND exceed their expectations. Sure, it’s a hard gig, but to whom much is given (my dollars may not be much, but they mean much to me), much is expected.

It should be obvious that making customers happy is ultimately good for business. However, I fear some businesses, companies and corporations are simply too big – or just don’t face enough competition – to care. Ever spend time on a phone navigating those stupid automated systems in order to talk to a “real” person? Ever read through a list of the “15 Worst Companies For Customer Service?” Some have been in business forever, so if they’re still getting by even by pissing us off, why should they care?

Luckily, none of the businesses on my list were exactly local. In fact, I usually receive excellent customer service from the businesses I patronize in my own community and region (which I make it a point to do every chance I can). In my 10-plus years as a Cookeville resident, not one bad experience comes to mind, at least not readily. So good job, area business community. You get two thumbs up.

And, for the record, I did receive a pre-paid gift card for my troubles with Company B, a whopping $20, which is about an iota of a percentage of the product’s original purchase price. That is something, my friends, I’m riding all the way to the bank (or enter some equally sarcastic cliche here). So much for bad customer service, right?

Liz Engel Clark is the editor of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal. She can be reached at (931) 528-8852 or liz@ucbjournal.com.


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