Is Your Customer Service Killing Your Brand?

I’ve written previously about how your employees can be your biggest asset to building your brand. Enthusiastic employees, who believe in what your company has to offer, understand their role in the organization’s success, and feel valued, are the best advocates for your cause or company. They share their beliefs in their interactions with friends, family, and, most importantly, your customers. When your employees are sincere in their passion for your cause, their actions help build a credible relationship with your donors or customers.  Both nonprofits and businesses are wise to create a culture where employees embrace your mission and customer service is a core value. Empower your employees to treat your customers – both internal and external – with the highest level of customer service, and you’ll win loyal customers and employees in return.

At the same time, employees who miss the mark on customer service are putting your brand at risk. 

Even loyal customers can turn quickly when they feel they are not valued.  There are always other companies that will value their business and other charities that have needs for their donated dollars. Based on the way my concerns were handled, I quit shopping at a specialty store that I had frequented weekly; was wooed back to an upscale fast-food diner; and am still on the fence about a computer company I’ve been using for a decade.

Bad, Great, Mediocre

When I set out to start Larkin Lake Strategic Communications, the first thing I did was invest in a new computer. It was an important purchase. Without it, I had no business. Without it, I could connect with clients. Without it, I could not create content. (While I have decent handwriting, I’ve yet to find a client who will accept a communications strategy inked out in pen on paper.) And, so I devoted a good portion of my precious start-up money to my laptop and purchased it through a well-known company whose products I had used for nearly a dozen years.

There may not be a better way to deflate the euphoria of a creative entrepreneur than to learn the laptop you’ve waited weeks to be built to specification and delivered to your office, doesn’t work as it should: incomplete links to software installations; PIN functionality that didn’t grant access; a Word dictionary set for British, instead of American, English; the crash of Windows 10 and the subsequent black screen death.

Over the next two months, my customer service experience went from bad, to frustrating, to wonderful, to unsatisfying. The initial bad and frustrating were, as one might expect, the emails back from online support and the numerous transfers when I called tech support. Once I reached the right tech department, though, I connected with a tech representative who demonstrated a commitment to bettering my experience with his company. He was patient, considerate and responsive. He treated me as if I was the company’s most important customer, and as a result, my frustration for the company began to fade. While I wasn’t completely satisfied with my computer, I was overly satisfied with the service I was receiving. In fact, I had decided that it would be a wise decision to PURCHASE this customer service package when the initial package ran out.

Then the computer company did something that changed my perspective on their company again. After six weeks of being assured I would have the same tech contact until my issue was solved, I was transferred to a different rep. Immediately, the service level dropped. No calls, just occasional emails. My computer issues were complicated and required me to send the computer back for repairs and reinstallation – and, when that didn’t solve the issues, I eventually received the replacement computer I am typing this blog on today. My newly assigned customer service rep didn’t take the time to update when my new system was sent, and thus I missed the first delivery attempt. I was once again frustrated; the onus was on me. I couldn’t help but feel as if I was not important to this company.

Adios over $15 and attitude

For several years, I’d visit a specialty grocery weekly. It was within walking distance of my condo, offered groceries and prepared foods “foodies” loved, and offered free Thursday night wine tastings. When a Groupon® was available, I purchased it. And then, I forgot about  it.

We can’t forget that leadership sets the tone for customer service.

I took the expired Groupon to the store to redeem the purchase value, as is the Groupon policy. While several employees tried to help, store owners refused to honor the purchased value because “their computerized registers were no longer set up to accept it.” Now, the solution was simple: I complained to Groupon who refunded my purchase price. But, I never set foot in the store again. I was not valued as a loyal customer. (Apparently, customer service was just one of the store’s issues. It was subsequently featured on one of those Food Network shows that attempts a remodel for failing restaurants and groceries, and has since closed.)


Wooed back

When my husband and I were house hunting, we’d sometimes spend two to three hours with our realtor after work, visiting house after house. On once such night, we realized we hadn’t had dinner, and stopped for a burger at an upscale fast food joint 15 minutes before the restaurant was to close. Being aware of the time, we made our selections quickly, and wasted no time eating.  As soon as the clock struck 9 p.m., an employee came over and told us to, “finish up quickly” as they were closed. The employee could see we had just one bite of burger and a couple fries left on our plate. I’ve worked retail. I’ve been the employee who starts counting change well before close, in hopes that no more customers come in and I can go home exactly when the doors are locked. But the employees’ irritability was over the top. The next day, I wrote a note to the corporate service team about our experience at this location and how it differed from our experiences at their other location. The customer service manager immediately apologized, promised to let the store manager know, and sent me vouchers for our next meal. She made me feel valued. Needless to say, I am still a customer.

Three companies. Three customer service experiences. Each was critical in my opinion of the brand and my likelihood of remaining a customer, and of recommending the company to a friend. By the way, I’m still on the fence about the computer company.

What customer service experiences have you had that have changed your opinion of a brand?

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