Monday, January 30, 2012

Customer service

Today's post is a little heavy on business ownership, with a couple of semi-interesting real life examples of excellent customer service. Consider yourself warned.

Good customer service goes a long way, especially now that all it takes is a few seconds to share your experience with thousands of people. In my own business, I always try to be as helpful as possible and, if problems arise, to see things from both sides and create a fair and fast solution to the problem.

Recently I've been on the receiving end of some excellent customer service that I'd like to brag about. First, my Charter* internet and phone service bill went up significantly as a special promotion I had expired. With all the baby expenses we have right now, that increase put a serious strain on our budget. I made one offhand, but not rude or too negative, imo, comment out of frustration about it on Twitter, and was contacted by a Charter representative within minutes. They were able to put me on a newer promotional rate, keeping me and my budget happy.

Was it absolutely necessary for them to lower my rate? No, of course not. I knew what the terms were, and that my rate would increase. If they hadn't, they might have lost me as a loyal customer, not because of poor service, but out of necessity on my part. Because they chose to extend the new rate to me, though, they keep me as a customer and I've since been telling everyone I know how awesome they are for it.

Another instance involves NeilMed* and a nasal irrigator spray thingy that I bought out of desperation from CVS* about a little over a week ago. When I tried it, it didn't spray at all like it was supposed to. (Don't worry, I won't go into any more detail on that.)  I thought about returning it to CVS, but I really didn't feel like  getting back out to do it that day. On the box they had an email address for questions and complaints, so I thought I'd email them to let them know about the faulty can and see what I needed to do to get a replacement. They asked for my address and the batch number and told me they'd have a new one shipped to me ASAP. That was on a Thursday. On the very next Saturday I received the new, fully functioning one in the mail.

Now, in the case of a faulty part, I would expect a replacement or refund. What really impressed me was just how easy they made it for me to get a replacement and how quickly I received it. Honestly, I probably won't purchase that particular product again, because I prefer to just use a neti pot (again, no more details), but I won't hesitate to purchase other products from them in the future. I will also recommend their products to anyone needing that sort of thing because of how promptly they fixed the problem.

As a business owner, both cases serve as an example of what to consider when working with our customers. In the first instance, Charter's quick response and willingness to work with me made a lasting positive impression. What if it was impossible for them to give me the new promo rate, though? In order to run a successful business, you have to be able to make a profit. Sometimes that means not being able to offer the kind of pricing or discounts the customer would like or that your competitors offer. There are other ways to make a positive impression in those situations.

In this example, I appreciated the fast response. If they had been unable to lower my rate, I would have appreciated any advice the representative could offer, such as cutting back on features or seeing if there was a better package or plan for me based on my usage. I still may have needed to switch providers, but the fact that they made an effort to help would have made a lasting positive impression on me.

The second example is, I think, every business owner's worst nightmare. You do everything possible to ensure a quality end product, but every once in a while something goes wrong. I work on such a small scale that I can thoroughly inspect every product and package it securely for shipping, but I still worry. It is important to remember, though, that a quick and speedy remedy to the problem will go a long way with most customers, as long as you address the problem with any remaining merchandise to maintain the quality of your products.

What examples do you have from either side of the table?

* I should note, I am not being paid for any endorsements from any of the above companies. These are my actual experiences that I chose to share without compensation.