Companies don't walk the talk when it comes to delivering excellent service. This was the topic of a recently vividly described article in the Harvard Business Review magazine.
It told how the average American customer spends 13 hours on the phone annually waiting in a queue to solve their problem.
More profound research into the subject revealed that big companies such as United Airlines do this deliberately. While claiming in their advertisements that they offer you, their valued and appreciated customer, the best service possible, they do everything to discourage you from contacting them for assistance or complaints.
Did it ever happen to you? You bought a service or a product, and something went wrong. You contacted the company and ended up feeling all kinds of emotions when no one seems to have any authority to help you further. Everyone is pointing at other companies, departments, or "Head Office"?
When I had a problem with my new iPhone, Vodafone did just that—leaving me for days in all kinds of crazy loops. One employee even shouted at me and dropped the phone. When I persisted, I finally got a physical address to send my complaint to (snail mail) and ended up with a new phone.
And you know what? I am still their client, even if I felt treated like ...well, you know what.
Because I know that the other phone companies are just the same.
And there you have it. The big companies with a vast client base don't bother leaving you feeling well treated. And it feels kind of devilish to say one thing and actively have all protocols in place to discourage people calling for complaints. The company may lose a client or two, but their calculation is this: redress costs more than losing a group of clients.
In luxury, we- however big or small we are- never consider such (as above described). We write with big letters on the wall how much we care about service in our hearts and minds and missions and visions.
With many drums and perhaps an almost misplaced pride, we announce how we are there for our customers everywhere. We might even dare to say that it is what our business is all about.
We strongly believe this, and we might forget to ask ourselves and our team: is it true?
Perhaps we have our pre-purchase (marketing, social media) perfectly in place. We have taken care of this part of the so-called client journey (with almost always an online start). How are we really performing as a company when our client is in our store? Or in our offices or on a trade show?
And how are we performing when a client comes to us with a complaint about our product or service?
Do we jump on a high horse feeling almost offended that someone questioned our product or service? Do we immediately frame that client as a troublemaker, whiner, or problem?
Do we feel....dare I say it, attacked? Someone dared to question our perfectly described mission about customer satisfaction and service!
''How honestly can you look at your service if pride is your most outstanding value?''
Let's go back, yes, once again, to why your company exists in the first place.
Maybe you work or run one of the heritage brands that have been around for a long time, and consumers come to you as you have perfected the luxury buying experience and rely on the excellent training of your staff.
One big problem that I notice repeatedly is that many companies consider themselves as much as a heritage brand as Cartier. (No calling out names here, but I literally heard them saying it)
But although many of even the youngest brands love to think they are already a heritage brand ;-), they are, in fact, not. And chances are most likely that your company isn't either.
A great idea that works wonders is to sit down with the people you directly work with and talk about values.
Let's take a look at how that may work out.
You sit down with your board, your partners, your employees, or maybe just by yourself if that is how your business is structured. And you write down a list of all your values. If there are many, bring them down to say ten and then try again to bring them back to about 3-5.
Now, let's assume that you have put this down:
A very ambitious list, but it's a safe bet that our personal and business values always tend to be very ambitious (not a bad thing ;-) )
The idea is to map all services, products, but especially the moments of interaction (in whatever way) with the customer, and compare them with your three most outstanding values. You have usually set the bar high yourself. Be very honest about where it could be better. What interpreting values can bring is a relatively simple way of knowing whether to improve and how.
Let's be honest: most companies see the whole affair of after-sale service as rather unpleasant and annoying.
Therefore, thinking, talking, and evaluating your core values are ideal to consider doing.
It helps you with the more challenging "cases" and can determine if you meet your own standards in every communication (including how easy it is to reach us for a possible complaint).
It all starts with being easily accessible or approachable. It should be clear on the website, especially if it concerns a larger company, how your customer comes into contact with you. Especially when they have a problem.
But it is you or your employees who make the difference.
''How luxurious is it when your customer has to make a lot of effort to get in touch with you?''
The very same rules should apply in the B2B jewelry arena. Here is an all too real scenario;
I call an Italian jewelry company. The phone gets picked up, and I hear: Pronto? Now I do speak Italian, but they don't know that.
When I tell my name and ask for the person I need to speak to, I almost get a sigh. ''Ehhhh, non so se ci sia in questo momento'' ( Ughhhh, I am not sure if they are in right now)
What do I make of this? This person makes me feel I am disturbing whatever they were doing, and I have done so with an unreasonable request. This isn't an uncommon situation at all.
And it is terrible. The person who answers calls should always be polite, making the caller feel welcome and solving the caller's problem.
To put it bluntly: I am not interested whether you know if the person is in or not. I need only to speak to her or understand how you make it possible to talk with her.
My point is obviously that a national consumer base that calls to your company should have your polite and kind service available, but international clients expect nothing less.
I learned my lesson about leaving a good impression at a young age (17). Working at Albert Heijn ( supermarket chain store), we were trained that at the check-out, we were the last face of the customers' journey in the store.
How positive about Albert Heijn people felt leaving the store was up to us. How true.
Whether it's the first impression or the last one, make sure it is incredible, kind, thoughtful, helpful. Make sure that the client feels (almost) happy they had a problem and then found out how great your company really is!
A simple thing: on the phone: there is no need to shout ''Pronto!'' anymore. You can see on the screen of every phone where the client is calling from. Don't answer in Italian (Spanish, Russian, Croatian, Dutch, and so on…;-) ) when you KNOW the client is calling from abroad.
Don't confuse them, HELP them :-)
Why? Because problems, much like in real life, offer a possibility to learn. The client could find out how wonderful you really are. Not by what you say on your social media or on your website, but when it really matters.
And do not underestimate word of mouth or reviews online! People talk about a company enthusiastically ONLY when they have exceeded the expectation. Especially when you helped them solve a problem!
Would you like to learn more about this topic? Check out Bizzita regularly!
Would you like to offer the most incredible after-sale service in your company, and you appreciate some help, or even just feedback or a brainstorm session? Contact Esther directly!