Friday, October 13, 2006

Personal Thoughts on "Customer Service"

It occurs to me that people having read my earlier posts about my terrible experience with the support, or lack thereof, received from Dell, Dell Financial Services and it's other tentacles might think I'm being unfair. And, truth be told, there are many people who feel that this is the way customer service has to be.

I could not more strongly disagree.

I am a consumer, but also a business owner. I operate several online stores and process dozens of orders a day. My company is nowhere as large a Dell, with fewer reesources, and a smaller staff. But one thing we clearly whomp them on is customer service.

I expect companies I do business with to be capable of answering my questions and providing a decent level of support. I'd like to summarize what I mean by support, and pledge it to my many customers and customers to be:

  1. If we take your order, and we charge you for it, we take responsibility for making darn sure you know exactly how your order is progressing, and understand that you are absolutely entitiled to write or talk to someone who actually knows, or can quickly find out anything at all about your order.
  2. We will respond to EVERY email and EVERY phone call in a TIMELY manner.
  3. We will ALWAYS provide a contact information page no more than ONE STEP away from our home page that both provides a real email address and a real phone number that you can call.
  4. We will not subject you to a confusing and time consuming teleprompt system. We find them annoying, we would not want to have that forced on us either. The most hassle you'll find dealing with us is a voicemail system, and we check messages REGULARLY during the day.
  5. All our representatives speak fluent, clear English. We serve customers in the United States of America, and want you to understand what we say.
  6. We make mistakes on occasion, it's unavoidable. But we promise to strive to find prompt and fair solutions to any problems that arise.

If there's anything that convinces me that most consumers have been beaten down by the current state of Customer Service, particularly with online stores, it's the reesponse I get when talking to our customers.

For instance, we had this customer on one of our shoe and boot sites that had placed an order. For whatever reason, the order confirmation email and tracking information emails had not made it through to her email account.

She emailed us, very concerned about the status of her order. When we tried her billing phone number, it appeared not to be working. We noticed she had opted to have the package delivered to her place of business, so we looked up the business, called, and used the directory to locate her.

Now to us, this does not seem like an unreasonable amount of effort. We always try to imagine what we'd feel like if we were in our customer's shoes. In this case, the customer had no information about her order except the charge showing up on her credit card. That would be unsettling.

When we got her on the phone and gave her the relevant information about her order, you could almost hear her jaw drop. People are repeatedly floored by a company that actually tracks them down and calls them on the phone to resolve an issue, but to me, this is what being in business is all about.

Most of our customers never have to talk with us at all, and everything just works out fine. But I believe a company is not defined by how it treats the usual customers, but how it addresses the problems and issues that arise.

And in that respect, based on my experience, we kick Dell's ass.



Blogger Tom said...

Right On!!!

10:24 AM  

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