The great debate on handling customer complaints

42-15232843As customers we want to choose the companies we do business with based on personal recommendations, reviews, and past performances. Unfortunately, when it comes to telecommunications, most of us are still somewhat limited as to our choices, but still that is absolutely no excuse for poor customer service.

Two days ago I called AT&T to order two new land line phones for my new home. The customer service agent was polite and helped me to plan what I would need and arranged the install date for a few weeks from now when I moved. Unfortunately, he mistakenly canceled my main land line at my current home, which in my line of business has a very negative impact on my business day. With the obvious fault being that of  AT&T, my perception of reality was to be for the company to immediately turn my service back on; eight-hours later, three-and-a-half hours on my cell phone speaking with customer service and an endless parade of rudeness, ineptness, and excuses – finally service was restored.

So let’s make this a serious attempt to explain why customers complain and how any company can and should improve their customer service with a better proactive approach. Perhaps the most frustrating part of a company mess up is the slow response time. Again, a customer’s reality is judged how well a company resolves the problem. The apology is of course necessary, but if the problem isn’t rectified, what has been resolved? A company like AT&T  can not have a customer service agent get on the line and  simply say the service a customer expected is temporarily unavailable.

The unprofessional behavior by employees can quickly become viral when a customer relates their experience to others on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. No matter how angry the customer is, the agent’s job is to listen. Of course, no agent is expected to put up with any kind of verbal abuse, but a customer’s anger for an organization’s error that is costing a customer loss of business or loss of money is justified. (barring abuse of course) It’s when there is a lack of available management, and everyone assures a customer of a realistic resolution and it doesn’t happen, then the failure of the company’s customer service becomes a tragedy.

So what is the great debate how to handle customer complaints? Start with making promised services available, and when a company makes an error, reward customer loyalty with an expedited resolution to the problem. In my case, a supervisor should have been called immediately to resolve the problem before it became an eight-hour ordeal. After all, customer loyalty should never be ignored. There is nothing more disappointing than to feel that lack of appreciation. Rectify the slow response time, and realize a company is judged by properly trained and informed employees. Eliminate unprofessional behavior of employees; more training, more role-playing, and more supervisors available at peak hours of business. And finally – every company worth their weight needs to show their long-time customers the profound advantages of having been with a company for an extended amount of time and give them priority treatment.

And to think I don’t move for another few weeks!

photo credit: gcoldironjr2003