Show Your Customers Some Love

In Singapore, Valentine’s Day is a pretty big deal. Restaurants are booked out way in advance, boxes of chocolates are stacked high in the supermarkets and florists get set to make a killing.

While the boyfriend and I don’t take the day too seriously, we like surprising each other with a little something. This year, he sent a bouquet of flowers to my office. A bouquet that never arrived. It wasn’t until he started asking about it, that I realized the work day was almost over and I hadn’t received a single call, text or communication of any sort from the florist.

Now, this isn’t some shady operation we’re talking about. This company happens to be the top local and regional florist with a bunch of fairly impressive awards to their name, and a website proclaiming their commitment to customer service. So fixing this situation should have been a piece of cake, right?

He won't stand for bad service. Neither should you.

He won’t stand for bad service. Neither should you.

Nothing could’ve been further from the truth. Calls to their hotline ended up on an answering machine that disconnected halfway, while emails and messages sent through their online form went unanswered. Understandably, the boyfriend was not impressed and swore to give them a piece of his mind once he got hold of someone.

This went on until the next day, when we passed the florist’s headquarters on our way to lunch.   Since they weren’t responding to calls and emails, we figured that they couldn’t hide from some face-to-face communication.  All became clear the moment we stepped in. The staff looked up sheepishly and before we could say much, they asked if we’d come to complain about the floral no-show, and agreed meekly to a refund and re-delivery. Apparently, there’d been a flood of angry customers all day.

Problem solved? Not quite. While their offer pacified us to some extent, it also made us wonder what they would’ve done if we hadn’t confronted them. It seemed likely that they were happy to bury their heads in the sand hoping for any problems to vanish.

By adopting a passive attitude and reactive approach to customer service, this florist lost our business. Compare this to a similar incident in Malaysia, where a local florist incurred the wrath of hundreds of customers after their courier company failed to deliver the bouquets. Instead of hiding from this mistake, they promptly released a statement explaining the situation and reached out to every customer to offer a refund and upgrade to their original order.

Which company would earn your loyalty? In a world where businesses come and go, and products are seldom one-of-a-kind, the one thing that’ll set you apart from everyone else is great customer service.  It’ll transform your business from mediocre to memorable.

– Sharon

Aim Carefully, Don’t Over Shoot

I’ve worked in customer service, in a variety of different settings, for many years now and until recently I didn’t really ponder the dynamics of the customer service relationship too deeply.

A couple of weeks back I had the displeasure of shopping at a chain of clothing

“What do you mean you don’t need my help?”

“What do you mean you don’t need my help?”

stores whose staff have been mercilessly beaten with an attitude of “push, push, push” and the result is a flow-down effect on the customer. I entered their store and after about 5 minutes of contented browsing I was approached by a young man whose face was split by a smile that was not reaching his disinterested eyes.

How are you today man?” he boomed in faux-enthusiasm. I replied that I was great and returned my eyes to the racks.

You looking for something in particular, because these are made and designed in Oz” He said at me, while holding up a shirt from a nearby rack and pointing at it suggestively. I replied that I wasn’t and I was just browsing. However, this seemed to be like waving red to a bull – how dare I attempt to browse this store without his input.

Yeah, I get that all the time. Did you know that all those jeans are handmade? You’d rock the mauve ones” He said pointing behind me. I thanked him and told him that I was just browsing – again.

After an awkward silence he exclaimed “You look lost!” and moved far too close to me. I assure him that I was not, and I was exactly where I wanted to be.

Are you sure?” He asked. I repeated that I was fine but I now had a sinking feeling that I will not be allowed free reign of the store without being rude to this “salesman”.

Well, you sure look lost. Hey, you’d look good in one those jackets. I’m thinking you’re a dark blue kinda guy” he says while physically grabbing my arm to drag me somewhere. It was at this stage that I decided enough was enough and told him, in no uncertain terms, that I didn’t want anything anymore and left the store.

I think this kind of persistence is something that, if we’re honest, we’ve all experienced in a sales environment. For me, it drove home the importance of ‘reading’ a customer. Great salespeople will tell you that a good sales pitch gets the sale and a repeat customer. The ‘brute force’ method of mercilessly pushing a product will sometimes get the sale, but it will likely deter the customer from coming back to you because they found the experience to be uncomfortable or intimidating.

By no means should customers be ignored, what I’m trying to illustrate here is that it’s equally detrimental to overshoot in the other direction. A salesman who’s obviously faking his enthusiasm, and covering the customers like his opponent in a footy match is more likely to put off customers than keep them coming back.

– Kyle

How To Be A Customer 101

As service providers, we go to great lengths to ensure we take care of our customers, but what about when the shoe is on the other foot? When we find ourselves as customers, how can we get the best possible service?

Before a company can commit to exceeding your expectations, they need to know what you expect!  So, let your service provider know. It seems so simple, but how many transactions result in disgruntled customers simply because the business representative did not have an accurate picture of the customers’ expectations?

What are your expectations as a customer?

What are your expectations as a customer?

Sure, you can argue this is the business’ responsibility and we’d agree with you. But maybe this example will encourage you to make your expectations known. We were working on a video production and noticed a faulty bit of equipment. This equipment did not come cheap and this fault was certainly unbecoming of the reputable manufacturer.

So we emailed the manufacturer stating the problem. The manufacturer’s representative promptly responded advising us to call the Australian distributor. We had dealt with this particular distributor in the past over the phone and our experiences were… disappointing. Naturally, this was frustrating news to receive. But how was the manufacturer to know?

We responded by writing, calmly but firmly, that this particular distributor had been unhelpful and unpleasant to deal with and as such we were not keen to contact them again. We asked for another alternative. They suggested we ship it. When we said that would be too expensive, they said they would ship a new unit and for us to send back the faulty one. Even though this was an international company, the issue was sorted within four days.

Would it have been better if they had a more professional Australian distributor? Absolutely, but consider how this transaction might have gone if we hadn’t made our expectations of customer service explicitly clear. Our faulty unit would have gone in for costly repairs and the manufacturer would have probably lost a customer.

This doesn’t mean you should be a prima donna. Sales people are astutely aware of customers who demand excessive service at a minimal price and quickly discard them as a vocal nuisance. It’s often extremely uneconomical to try to please these divas. Instead, make your reasonable expectations clear. Smart companies will see this as an opportunity to impress you.

Next time you’re a customer, think back to the customers you’ve impressed. Chances are their expectations were clear and you knew exactly how to exceed them.

– Jakub