Customer Service
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Customer Service is something of an art. You know it when you see it, but you can't always describe it. It's also rapidly becoming a lost art.

I pay good money for products and services, and I have fairly high expectations that the products will work right and the service will be good. For the most part, the products you find in the store today are in the "you get what you pay for" category. That's fine. Service on the other hand, well, most places could improve a good bit on this.

The worst customer service I ever received was from a muffler shop back when I was in college. They did crappy work and then took my car out for a high-RPM joyride that damaged the engine. Upon discovering this, I confronted the manager/owner of the shop. He actually spit at me, physically threatened me, and ejected me from the shop! I told everyone I could find about this, and after talking to some other people, I found out that I wasn't the only one who got treated badly there and received shoddy work along the way. (I did find out I was the only one he spit at, though.) No wonder the shop folded in less than two months. The morale of this little story is that customers pay your bills - without them, your business starves to death. Slowly. Hopefully painfully for places like the muffler shop I had the misfortune to use that spring day.

If you work in customer service - let me give you a big hint. The customer pays your salary. If you manage people in customer service, you better understand this even more. If you own a business engaged in customer service, this is a "do or die" thing. It doesn't matter if mistakes are made - it matters how you treat the customer. I am not there imposing on your time - you are imposing on my time. I am not at your mercy, you are at my mercy. If you mistreat me and annoy me, I will seek satisfaction. If enough of us do that, you have a serious problem.

The best place to show your customer service attitude is when a mistake is made. How do you handle it? Do you compensate the customer for wasting their time? Or do you blow them off, berate them, or ignore them? Do you offer to fix it without being asked? Or do I have to pry concessions out of you like I'm negotiating over the price of a new car? Second big hint - if you don't understand this, you shouldn't be in a customer service job.

What should you do if you screw up? Here's some examples.

  •  For mail-order mess-ups, return shipping is on the business, and the new item should be shipped in an expedited manner with the business eating the shipping costs. If you don't like the extra costs here - then don't screw up my order in the first place.
  •  For eating establishments, the food should be free or reduced cost. For serious screw-ups, strongly consider offering gift certificates large enough to pay for the meal so I want to come back again.
  •  For repairs (home, auto, etc.) own up to the mistake and discount your services. Absorb the cost of any overages you caused.
  •  If you cause me to incur added costs (wasted time, or especially added monetary costs) due to your ineptitude, strongly consider paying the bill. Keep in mind that if you are costing me actual money, this one is crossing into legal territory. It's not just having good customer service to fix this, in some cases it's the law. I'll happily drag you into court and enjoy watching you squirm. If I win, that's gravy. If not, I still got my pound of flesh. My sleazy lawyer works on a contingency fee basis - yours doesn't. You do the math.

Comments? Kudos? Got some parts you'd like to buy/sell/barter/swap? Nasty comments about my web page so far? You can email Mike or Debbie.

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Page last updated 01/02/2009 01:51:39 PM