Customer Service Has Left the Building: 4 Ways to Build or Restore Reputation

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“The road to success is always under construction.” – Arnold Palmer

Whether it’s buying food, goods, or services, everyone encounters the best and worst in customer service on a daily basis. In many cases, less customer service has become the norm.

Think about it. Rate the last 10 businesses where you spent money. Were you happy with the service? Were you treated with respect? Will you spend money at that business again?

While actual business owners and leaders may care about customer service, many employees either don’t care or haven’t been trained in client care.

REMINDER: Customer Service is Everything to a Business

Without customer service, a business is nothing. Every business needs to keep their clients and grow client base to maintain or grow and increase profitability. It may seem obvious, but it’s not obvious to everyone.

Explore some common customer complaints.

Customer Complaint: Promotions Are Not Honored, Inaccurate, or Prove to be Bait and Switch

In recent cases, discount promotion deals were sent via email and then not honored.

A coffee chain recently offered an email and website discount promotion at all store locations, but it was not honored at all locations. The deal: if a customer purchased a certain coffee drink between the hours of 2:00 and 5:00 pm, the customer was supposed to receive a discounted drink. The offer was only available for three days. For a customer who attempted to use that offer during two of those days, two different franchise locations had excuses why the discount wasn’t available between those hours. Both blamed computer glitches and the timing offered in print. Confusing information offered by different locations meant inconsistent training. Only a phone call to headquarters rectified the situation by offering the customer a free drink. Problem solved.

In another situation, a discount promotion was offered by a bowling alley for Sunday bowling. There was no time restriction in the email or on their website for the half-price discount offer. However, the franchise business declined to honor the email discount even though the same offer was listed in print on their website. Employees claimed the discount was not as advertised in print. Instead, it was only available after 6:00 pm. Why were the email and website discount offered to the public if they weren’t going to be honored? That was bait and switch. A complaint was filed with the manager of the location but it was met with hostility from both employees and the manager. Problem not solved.

How employees deal with customer service represents the spirit of the company, whether intentional or not.

Response Reminder: Make certain print advertisements are accurate and all employees are informed of promotions.

Consistency in service is critical to success and client retention.

Customer Complaint: Poor Attention to Health Details by Employees

In a recent case, when a table became available at a sushi restaurant, the host took a wet towel, dropped it on the floor, picked it up from the dirty floor, and wiped down a dining table with the same towel. He didn’t care about blatant disregard for customer health. In California, sushi cafes have become fast food restaurants with a “move them in, move them out” approach. If the sushi owner knew this had happened, he would have been shocked because he built a chain of sushi restaurants on his name and reputation. 

In another situation, a man took a friend to a very expensive chain restaurant. While they were eating, a cockroach crawled across the table. He complained. The waiter was indifferent but offered a free dessert from the menu. If the waiter was really thinking about customer service, he should have made the entire meal free and apologized profusely. The man vowed never to return to the restaurant again and told his entire network of friends and relatives the story. It was less about the cockroach and more about receiving no apology and poor customer service. As a result, the business lost not only his business but future business from his entire network. 

Response Reminder: Most often, unhappy customers simply want to hear an apology and the words, “I’m sorry.” 

Do not let pride get in the way of an apology. It’s smarter to apologize than to insist on being right.

Customer Complaint: Incomplete Work Yet the Customer Paid In Full

In a recent case, a car repairman charged $2,000 for work on a car. The customer paid the bill in full believing the work had been completed. The next day the car broke down again. When the car was taken to a different repairman, an inspection showed that parts were not replaced and the car work was not completed as promised. When a phone call was made to the original owner of the repair shop to inform him, he apologized and promised to do the work at no further cost. That’s smart customer service. 

Response Reminder: The owner or manager of a business needs to stand behind their work and make the situation right.

The faster a business rights the ship, the faster the ship will float.

Customer Complaint: One-Minute Disqualifier

Things that happen in less than one minute can disqualify someone from being a long-term client. Every customer should be served with respect. It’s an interpretation of the intention of the vendor that can result in losing customers forever.

Working in a service industry, there are a variety of stories about customer service. Sadly, you hear more about poor customer service than good customer service. 

Customer service is about fairness, balance, and listening.

It’s easy to win a client. When apologies are made to customers, there’s forgiveness.

It’s also easy to lose a client. When customers are bad-mouthed or called liars, businesses lose repeat business for life. Word travels like lightning about poor customer service

Excellent customer service is critical to a company’s success.

4 Ways to Build or Restore Reputation with Customer Service:

1. The customer is always right.

Arguing with a customer will destroy a business. Never make the customer look bad. If a business apologizes to a customer and makes the situation right, most likely he or she will remain a repeat customer. Be prompt about responding the moment a complaint is voiced. Don’t give a customer the runaround or make them struggle to right a wrong. Deal with the issue, make it right, resolve it, and move on.

2. The needs of the customer must be fulfilled.

If a business promises to fulfill a customer’s need, that is the only acceptable result. Anything short of meeting a product or service promised will result in losing customers.

All businesses are created to serve the needs of the customer. Serving the need should be more important than greed or cashing in on sales. In order to have a viable business, the customer’s needs must be served. Without a customer, there would be no business. Therefore, customer service must be the number one priority in any business model.

3. Train employees on customer service expectations.

The reputation of the business depends on training employees to be informed on the details of products, honoring promotions, how to listen to customers, and how to treat customers with respect. If there’s no training, there’s a false hope of offering excellent customer service.

Training in resolving issues immediately by embracing positive customer service will set a business apart from competitors.

4. Do something unexpected and free for clients.

For every client, I’ve always done something for free that went above and beyond the basic expectation. It is either a small expenditure or offers something that makes their experience easier. Every client wants to feel special. Does it make a difference? Yes, it does. It creates repeat customers and positive word-of-mouth about a business. Find a balance that won’t deplete profit but will also show customers the business cares more about a client than a profit.

Customers always think about where they spend their money. So think like the customer and ask yourself some important questions to assess your own needs. Where do I shop? Where do I eat? Where do I spend my money for services? Why do I become a repeat customer? What is the experience I’m looking for in buying food, goods, or services? Would I spend money at my own business for the customer experience? What does the customer experience when placing an order at my business? Walk through the paces and see how you’re treated to make assessments.

Every business must rate their own client care and reassess customer service regularly. If a business markets itself in providing excellent customer service, follow through on that promise. Market the best service and deliver it. That approach makes all the difference between success and failure.

BOTTOM LINE: A customer will always go where they feel they get their money’s worth and someone cares about their personal needs over profit. If you welcome customers into your world with kindness and make them feel appreciated, it’s possible to create a faithful client for life.