tune-in-to-your-customersEarlier this summer, we moved into what we hope will be our home for at least a decade. After four houses in five years, we don’t want to see another moving box for a loooooong time.

Unfortunately, we are still looking at stacks of boxes, because the living room media center we ordered months ago hasn’t arrived yet. So we’ve been living with boxes of books, CDs, and DVDs stacked in the living room. And since we’re using our dresser as a temporary TV stand in our living room, we don’t have anywhere to put our clothes.

We’d really like to unpack.

When we bought the furniture, the sales rep warned us it would be a month or so before it would be available.

No problem, we thought.

Then the delivery date neared … and came … and passed … with no word from the furniture store. So we called, and suddenly one month turned into three or more.

To add insult to injury, my wife spent ten minutes on hold with customer service while they tracked down the order. Not that the ten minutes was a problem. The problem was ten minutes of a recording that described – over and over – how the store’s unique build-to-order process ensures much faster delivery than competitors can offer.

Ridiculous.  But not uncommon.

When our internet service went down last month, I spent 15 minutes on hold listening to three alternating messages. One suggested I use their website for my service needs (which would have been easier with internet service); the second boasted about their connection speeds and reliability; and the third thanked me for my patience.

All of this AFTER I had already indicated I was calling because of connection issues.

A similar experience with a florist last week: an online order couldn’t be confirmed, so they called me with a question. I wasn’t available, so they left a message telling me I had to call back as soon as possible for the order to go through. When I called back, I spent 20 minutes on hold listening to an automated message that told me: “In consideration of your time, please visit our website at […] for faster service.”

All three of these examples start with good intentions. Yes, you want to serve your customers quickly. Yes, you want to make their lives easier. Yes, you want to reinforce why they chose you in the first place, and why they should choose you again. But when someone’s calling with a problem, they want you to do one thing: fix the problem.

That’s it.

Anything else turns a ticked-off customer into a really ticked-off customer.

Every service failure is an opportunity to not only recover, but also strengthen a relationship with a customer… if you handle it correctly.

So do yourself a favor. Take a look at your approach to customer service – whether it’s online, on the phone, or in person. Are you identifying and diverting problem cases right away or subjecting them to sales pitches and runarounds? What message is a ticked-off customer hearing: “buy more, you’ll love us!” or “we’re serious about fixing this”?

Are you tuned in … or are you tone deaf?

*Image credit Franklin Team

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