Customer Service and Non-profits

I’ve been thinking about non-profits and customer service. Shouldn’t non-profits (specifically charities) have some of the best customer of any organization out there?

I had a test. I called the American Red Cross’s published phone number and tried to get through to a human. First impression, there’s menu after menu and it got annoying very quickly. I pushed the number for questions about donating (something you’d think you would get a quick response for) and got another menu. Pushed the number to donate money, got a sales pitch, and got another menu. Then, I was told they don’t want food or clothes (understandable) and asked if I wanted to use the automated system (no). I was on hold about a minute before a woman who seemed almost frazzled picked up and said “Hi, how can I help you?”

I then tried to call the Humane Society of the United States. They didn’t have an 800 number that I could find, but they did have a human pick up after just a few rings. There was no menu at all.

The third and final organization I tried to call was the American Cancer Society. Their phone number was the easiest to find. I pushed the button for donations and was transferred to a human within about 15 seconds.

So from my test, the organizations did fairly well. I didn’t ask any questions, try to make a donation, or do any sort of in-depth test, but answering the phone is a key part of customer service. The Red Cross could get rid of or simplify their menus and if the American Cancer Society wanted, they could get rid of their menus as well.

Think about organizations you give your time, money, resources, etc. to. What type of customer service do they provide? Is there a way that they could improve their customer service by simply eliminating a level or two in a menu or something else of that nature? If so, you could volunteer and try to help them with their customer service.

Charities are just as, if not more competitive than for-profit organizations. They have people paying them and working for them for free, so making the entire experience pleasant is very important. If you run or play a major part in charity, ask your volunteers and donors (big and small) about what you could do to improve the entire customer service experience?

Sometime next week I’ll post an example of service mapping. The example I read in a book used the process of giving blood as an example of what to service map. I’ll post that and it should give you an interesting idea of what you could do to help improve your customer service experience (regardless of what type of organization you’re involved with).

Also, a vast majority of the tips, suggestions, etc. I give, though intended for for-profit companies, can be applied to non-profits. Just be a bit creative and it’ll work out just fine.

On Monday, look forward to the interview with Craig Newmark, Founder, Chairman, and Customer Service Representative of Craigslist. The interview is quite interesting.

3 Responses to “Customer Service and Non-profits”

  1. Glenn Ross said:

    Jun 30, 06 at 10:23 pm

    Well the good news is, some of us in the non profit sector ARE working on customer service. We’re by no means anywhere close to where we want to be, but we’re making progress.

  2. Carol Spiker said:

    Nov 05, 07 at 2:37 pm

    We are addressing just this issue also. Part of the problem may be that employees are over worked and under paid. Also to give those on the front lines the information and support that they need. No easy answer, that is for sure.

  3. Service Untitled said:

    Nov 07, 07 at 10:22 pm

    Carol – there is rarely an easy answer to any sort of customer service problem! It’s tough, but well worth it.