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How do they get it so wrong?

Great customer service is easy.

So how do so many businesses get customer service to be so bad?

Don’t get me wrong, I know we all have off days. When a waitress looks like she has been slapped with a wet fish, I will usually go out of my way to help her change her state and in doing so, give me great service. “Had a rough day?” I ask. This is all it usually takes. The result is typically a wry smile (we all like empathy and recognition) and a much better time, for both of us.

We all make mistakes. It’s what we do afterwards that matters.

If your customer says your product or service is “wonderful”, say “thank you for the feedback.”

If your customer says your product or service is “not wonderful”, say “thank you for the feedback”, apologise for getting it wrong for them and put it right.

How hard is that?

Seemingly very difficult.

I recently bought a dog harness on line. It arrived quicker than expected and it really was high quality and just what I wanted – but a size too large. At this point my intent was to send it back and simply ask for an exchange.

There were no return instructions, no form, no label in the parcel – so I go online.

I was met with a long, officious form to complete requiring details they already had, an irritation. Then the company website tells me that the quickest way is to send the item back and ask for a refund, and meanwhile re-order the correct item. It is not clear on the form how to make sure this happens, so I telephone.

Now the truth is, by this stage, I am bored. Never a good thing I confess. But I am still 100% committed to my purchase. Even so I expect my voice tone was a little clipped.

The phone call went like this:

The man I spoke to confirmed that it would be quicker to get a refund and order a new one and I could do this online.

But, no, not with him.

So I said “I think the product is great and very high quality and it is regrettable that the returns process is such a pain”

He said “thank you for your feedback.”

Oh I wish!

What he actually said, at length and whilst constantly interrupting me, was a full description of his company’s processes and procedures and why this was in my interest.

I told him it wasn’t.

He told me I should listen to him and he would explain again.

I told him I didn’t want to listen to him anymore.

I hung up.

I returned the item and haven’t bought another.

He clearly had been reading a “how to lose customers for good …fast” guide, which I fear it gave the instructions:






And at no point apologise!

He had such an opportunity as it is well known that customer recovery is the way to create “raving fans” as Tom Peters calls them. As a customer our story then becomes “they got it wrong, but you know they were amazing and put it right straight away.”

Phillip Clarke, Chief Executive of Tesco turned a crisis into an opportunity recently over the horse meat saga when he went public with an apology and a statement saying what they were going to do to differently.

I still maintain that getting it right is that simple.

So as a supplier thank your customers for feedback; and as a customer please do praise people when they give you reasonable service and when it is awful don’t collude – tell them. You can even forward this blog.