I’m telling my friends about the bad customer service

Tony HsiehHow many of us really take the time to sit down and Google all of the information we need to make a formal complaint when a business treats us poorly? At the time and day this poor service happens we are angry, and we vow the moment we get home we will get a letter out to the CEO of the company and reiterate the miserable events of either our last purchase or service.

As reality settles in, and the other demands of life weigh more importantly upon our daily lives, often the letter doesn’t get written. Good thing for social media and Twitter however, but will that solve all of the problems we can’t quite condense to 140 characters or less? Sometimes we just need a letter with the chronology of events to point out every wrong either imagined or real done to us while spending our hard-earned dollars.

So who do we tell about bad service? Most of us will tell our friends. We go out for a Saturday night dinner with our neighbors, our relatives or our co-workers and the conversation most likely centers around that last unhappy experience at the airport, the restaurant, or the mall. Sometimes we just observe another shopper losing her patience, and we’re not sure if we should stay for the “show” or join in if the complaint is valid. Still imagine all the damage this entire bad customer service experience has had on the business.

How many times have any of us just left our would-be purchases on the ledge or on the counter because service was so slow? That then becomes a direct hit in the company’s wallet, but what can we do about some of this to make service better and keep customers coming back?

Some organizations seem to have misplaced the concept of customers first. Instead company policy intended to streamline and reduce costs wind up costing an organization more money. For example – a consumer’s cable television isn’t working correctly and the customer is told to call back later to see if the problem has been resolved. Unfortunately the  customer has then to repeat the entire telephone maze process again – thus releasing that exhaled breath of pure frustration and obscene muttered curse words.

What happens to customer service when the right candidates aren’t hired for the job? Customer service requires a certain type of person – one that can effectively demonstrate their patience and knowledge of customer preferences. One size does not fit all in the people pleasing category, but all too often customer service jobs start out as entry-level positions with entry-level salaries. In the nearby mall, there is a young adult clothing store which hires its sales personnel by their physical attractiveness – agreed the young women and men are extremely good-looking, but it hasn’t been any boom to their customer service skills. Many of the representatives have had no customer service training and appear to be incapable of making decisions when required they think “out of the box.”

And what every business needs to succeed and rise above the “bad” customer service is to lead by example. I just toured Zappos last week, and along with all of the camaraderie and team spirit, one aspect of the business plan particularly captured my attention. The CEO, Tony Hsieh’s desk and “cubicle” is out in the arena with all of the associates. There’s no special sign – no fancy glass walls – just a dangling bunch of green vines hanging through the aisle way as if out of a scene from a cheesy island adventure. The point – however – Hsieh is involved with the entire organization and has made customer service a priority – not by telling his employees, but being right there in the middle of the action. That my friends is what makes great customer service.

photo credit: jeffkward

4 Responses to “I’m telling my friends about the bad customer service”

  1. Richard Shapiro said:

    Oct 20, 11 at 9:21 am

    Cheryl, what a wonderful piece on customer service and Zappos! Your stories about your experiences are so true. Companies need to hire associates who have a history of helping people. If you don’t like to help people find what they are looking for, you should not be waiting on customers. Customers need to be made to feel welcomed, important and appreciated on every encounter and Zappos is unfortunately one of the few companies that actually gets it! Richard Shapiro, The Center For Client Retention

  2. Christine Woods said:

    Oct 22, 11 at 8:23 pm

    I had a horrible customer service experience this morning and my exact response was to hop on the internet and blast about my bad experience. Did I do this?…nope, didn’t have the time, and now that I am home and have the time and opportunity I don’t think it’s worth it, but I will definitely let my friends know. Thanks for the post.

  3. Cheryl said:

    Oct 24, 11 at 2:35 pm

    Thank you for the response Christine. It’s always better to “cool” off before engaging our anger at others – even if they do deserve it. Even letters complaining about a lack of service or poor customer service skills should always be professional. We tend to lose our credibility when we act hastily and forget our professional manners.

  4. Cheryl said:

    Oct 24, 11 at 2:45 pm

    If you’re out in Las Vegas, request a tour of Zappos. It is refreshingly fun and informative.