My student loan payment was due, however the online site where I normally pay my bill was down on two different occasions when I went to access it. I called the loan servicer and explained the situation. The customer service agent for the financial institution told me that the site was down for maintenance, but that it would be working in a couple of hours. The agent encouraged me to pay them over the phone because it would apply immediately to my account, instead of taking 48 hours to post. This sounded good to me, so I submitted my payment to her over the phone. The next time I checked my statement - there was no sign of a payment ever having been made. So I sent off this message from inside of my logged-in area:
The bank responded saying that they were unable to show telephone transactions as well as online transactions on my account. This made no sense to me, since it should be easy to list all customer transactions. If they can tell me about it over the phone, why can they not show it to me. The only proof that it was paid is my bank statement. I sent the bank the following:
They had a chance to correct the situation, however they sent me a form letter instead. This letter said how much they value my business, right? Nope. They used the words "We truly apologize" and "thank you for your feedback" since they will be "looking into improving their systems". Not improving. Looking into improving. They continued by saying they "valued me as a customer" and are "always here to service your present and future needs". What a load of B.S.! They should have already helped me with my past need that is now a present annoyance. The final blow is that they want me to call their customer service department "at my convenience" to get my full payment history on the loan. keep in mind that the customer service department is the reason why we are here in the first place. They can't simply send me the information I need. (They could have sent it in the message 2x now) They have to send me a message to have me call a number (again). The customer service agent could have warned me against paying via the phone. "Mr. Bindrup, just so you are aware, our IT systems at our International Institution are so bad that we can't actually display to you any transactions conducted over the phone. Would you still like to continue with this phone transaction?"
As small business owners, we can not afford to take care of our customers in such a way. Large corporations should take note of this since we have begun to realize as a consumer purchasing block that our voice does matter. Big business has the resources to shine in the customer service arena, however, unfortunately, they seldom do.
The Bad Salesperson Experience
I was interested to tour some newly decorated model homes that were being built in my area. The homes looked promising from the outside, so I stopped in to view the models. The sign on the door said that the operating hours were 11am – 6pm. I stopped by at 11:45am and was surprised to find the door to the sales center locked. Luckily, there were workers painting the garage that day and they let me inside the fenced area to view the model homes. After spending about a half of an hour viewing the model homes, I went back to the sales center to speak with the salesperson and get a list of prices for the houses. I was once again greeted with a locked door and “Open for Business” sign in the window. Where was the salesperson? I asked the crew of painters if they knew where the salesperson was. They had not seen the salesperson. I left a little disappointed that I could not get the information about the pricing of the homes. A couple of weeks later, my wife and I were driving in the area of the new homes. We stopped by to see them together. There was a car in the small parking lot next to the model homes that had a customized license plate that indicated that this car belonged to a real estate salesperson. Oh good, I thought, the salesperson is here this time. Imagine my surprise when a locked door once again greeted me. The “Open for Business” sign that clearly stated the 11am – 6pm office hours taunted me from the other side of the glass door. It was 11:30am and the sales office should have been open. I didn’t expect the same thing to happen twice in a row. Perhaps the sales person is showing the models to a buyer, or using the restroom, I thought. Just to make sure that no one was in the sales center I knocked on the window. Just as we were walking away, we heard a key in the lock and the door opened. The salesperson with her cell phone to her ear, barked: “I am on a weekly sales conference call and I don’t open the sales office until its finished!”. “Can’t we just look at the houses”, I asked. She motioned to the door that led to the models as she pushed a price list towards us and quickly retreated back to her desk and her phone conference. As we left the sales center, my wife commented to me, “I bet she doesn’t sell many houses”. I agreed. We made our way to the first model home and I was shocked that the door to the model was once again locked. Unbelievable! I thought. So were the doors to the other model homes. The salesperson had not even bothered to open the doors to the model homes. Now we were annoyed. Annoyed at the offensive salesperson. Annoyed at the situation. Annoyed that we were wasting our time. Why did the salesperson send us out the door to look at the models when she knew that they were locked? She is the only one there. It is part of her job to open and close the model homes every day. As we left my wife said to the salesperson, “you should not have office hours on your door if you don’t intend to keep them”. She was right. We left and went to visit a different set of model homes that were built by the same homebuilder that built the homes with the bad salesperson. We were this time greeted by a warm, and friendly salesperson. She introduced herself and asked our names and gave a brief description of the features of each model home. She also told us that she was available to answer any questions that we had. What a difference a Good Salesperson makes. Who would you feel more comfortable purchasing a home from? This entire situation could have been avoided. Here are 5 tips to help you avoid being a bad salesperson.
5 Tips to Avoid Being A Bad Salesperson
TIP 1 – Treat Customers with Respect
Always treat your customers with respect. This is so often overlooked. Every human being deserves respect. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. How would you feel if you were being treated in the same way you are treating a customer. Be a decent human being. When you show respect, other people show you respect.
TIP 2 – Keep Your Promises
The old adage “Under Promise and Over Deliver” still holds true. Every time you fail to keep your promises tarnishes the brand. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend; you cannot overcome consistent promise breaking with marketing efforts alone. Do your part and keep your word to your customers.
TIP 3 – Be Pleasant
You are in a business where you have to deal with people. The least you can do is make the interaction positive. Chemistry is vital in sales. Make sure that you have what Napoleon Hill referred to as a “Pleasing Personality”
TIP 4 – Measure Customer Service
One key teaching I learned in Business School is that if it is important, it is measured. There are businesses that claim that they are focused on customer service, however they don’t measure how they perform customer service. Put a system in place to measure your customer service efforts. If you don’t measure it, how will you know that it was delivered effectively?
TIP 5 – Reward for Service Goals
After you measure customer service, you must tie rewards to it. Just like sales goals, make sure that there are financial benefits tied to making your customer service goals. Revisit these goals on a weekly basis with your team.
PHOTO CREDIT: simongroenewolt Creative Commons License. Some Rights Reserved http://www.flickr.com/photos/simongroenewolt/11739507/
Last week my washing machine broke down right in the middle of a load, and I needed to call a repair service. I Googled appliance repair and up came a list of a dozen companies in my area. I clicked on the first one that looked promising and visited their website. Their website was cleanly designed and effective. I was pleased to see that they listed that they worked on LG front-loading washing machines and I felt comfortable that they could solve my problem. Wanting to get this fixed right away, I placed the call to them and got the following recorded message: “We are not accepting service calls right now” then it hung up on me. There was no “leave a message at the beep” or anything else. It seemed as though they were out of business. I thought they should at least take down their website if they were not in business anymore.
I clicked on the next repair service that had a website. Now I use the term website loosely because it only had two pages. One of the pages was a home page where they listed their services and contact info. It was very basic and not well designed. The other page contained a coupon that you could print to save $10 off your service. I liked that, so I printed the coupon and called the number listed on the site. This time my experience was very different. I got an actual person on the line and was able to explain to her the problem with my washing machine. She quickly took down my information and said that she had a technician in the field and he would call me back to schedule a time most convenient for me to have them to come and look at my washing machine. Within 10 minutes, I received a call from an appliance technician who verified my address and set a time that evening for the service call. The service tech kept his word & arrived on time at my home for the service call.
What was the difference in these two service experiences? One of these businesses got my money because of positive experiences with their touch points. A touch point is any point of direct interaction between a stakeholder and a business. In this case, I experienced 4 touch points: the website, the initial phone contact, the phone contact with the tech, and the actual service call with the tech. All of these were positive which makes me a happy customer.
How does your business touch your customers, potential customers, employees, vendors, etc. How do you treat you customers at these touch points? Do you make them feel welcome, assured, and confident that they are doing business with an honorable and competent firm, or do you make it difficult for them to do business with you? How you design your touch points makes all the difference in keeping customers happy and willing to refer other business to you.
No amount of money you spend on your marketing efforts can help if your customer service touch points fail you. By the way, the company that I called first is actually still in business. For how long is anyone’s guess.
Manage your Small Business better