Friday, December 26, 2008

Customer Service is dead

I've been saying that for a while, but today, for me, it has truly died. Time for the funeral, get out the bagpipes and lets lay it to rest, because it is deader than dead. In fact, we probably don't need to bury it, its has been pummeled into a dust so fine, that there it probably can't even be contained in an urn. It is that non-existant.

To say that I am angry is an understatement, in case I haven't been clear on that.

What the hell is going on in the world, when the customer isn't right anymore? My dad will probably fall out of his seat when he reads this - because he remembers the days when I worked at our ice cream store and truly believed that the customer was always WRONG. Well, that was 20 years ago and I'm an adult now with a business and a career. I have learned over the years from many smart people that it doesn't matter if the customer is right or wrong - they are the customer and the only thing that matters is that they are happy. That is, if you want them to continue being a customer and if you care about the people they know. When you upset one person, you don't just lose them as a customer, but you have to be prepared for them to tell everyone they come into contact with NOT to do business with you. That's a scary thought.

I really do try to provide excellent customer service. I don't argue with people before I give in and let them have what they want. I always try to just do the right thing by them in the first place. In my advertising job - if something is done wrong, if an ad appears incorrect, even if it was their fault, almost all of the time, I credit the ad - with an apology that it was wrong. If it was the customer's mistake - I usually tell them that I'll credit it this time and then give them some guidelines for the future so that it doesn't happen again - or if it does, they'll take the blame.

At our store, we work really hard to give our customers what they want. We sample anything in the store so they are sure they like it before they buy it. And if they get it home and it isn't what they thought or they don't like it or just don't want it - we take it back. And we'll return their money any way they want.

This is our theory - say someone buys $100 worth of stuff and for whatever reason, they want to return it. We can either give them their money back, provide a pleasant experience and expect that they will come back and buy more - also that they will tell their friends how great we are - how easy we are to deal with OR we can hold on to that $100 as tight as we can and hope that's enough to pay the rent this month and every month after because that customer will probably never come back.

Over the last few months, we have had an increasing number of bad service experiences. The one I have had today is the final straw for me. And I'm mad, because I really value the business that gave me this crappy service and I don't want to stop doing business with them. I really don't want to. I've always been happy before. But not today. And so, they will get a lot less of my business. Eventually they will get none of my business. I am sure they will wonder why.

The saddest part about it is that this business is in trouble. They are hurting financially. Their customers are going away in droves, their revenue down significantly. Shouldn't they be holding on to every customer for dear life? I guess they'd rather cling to my $200. I hope its enough to pay the rent, because I won't be paying it for them anymore.

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