Wednesday, August 18, 2010

You Win, I'll Buy Again...

I was personally reminded yesterday of just how important providing award-winning levels of customer service can be in keeping existing customers. I am sharing this experience because I feel that the way I was dealt with is a shining example of a company getting it right. All too often I read or hear about how a customer is lost due to poor levels of service. I am happy to say that this is not one of those stories. Read the following, give some thought on how your organizatin is dealing with customers, and then see if your service organization would live up to this real example.

I recently ordered clothing off of an online retail site that promotes itself as a high-end distressed inventory clearing house. When my order arrived, I had received the incorrect merchandise. I had originally ordered two dresses for my daughters and received two t-shirts. Nice t-shirts, but clearly not the merchandise that I had originally ordered. This was the first time I had ordered anything from this portal. This was a fatal error on the part of this business. As far as I was concerned I was done and would never order anything form this business again.

The next day I called their customer service department. I shared my story with their representative. As we spoke a credit was issued for the charges. I had yet to request any action to be taken. It was though the customer service rep anticipated what could be the best possible outcome for me (the customer) and proceeded to take care of my needs proactively without me having to exhaust the energy to rectify the issue.

Moments after taking my call my credit card had been credited for the original charges, the correct merchandise was placed in my shopping cart for me, and a credit for shipping was added to my order. As a bonus they even let me keep the t-shirts for my daughters. This was due to the return shipping/restocking costing the business more than simply allowing us to keep the merchandise, but even that was impressive. What I mean by that is here I was dealing with a customer service representative who knows that the cost of returning merchandise under a certain dollar threshold would actually cost the business more than the value of the merchandise itself and was empowered to make that decision. Very compelling.

I was transformed from a disenchanted customer who was now hanging up the phone just blown away with what had just transpired. Not only did they take care of my situation in an award-winning fashion, but they have earned my future business and will now have me advocating their business to my friends and family. Yes, they messed up my order, but in a way I am glad that it happened. I now have a great customer service story to tell and have been reminded at how fast you can lose a customer if you do not empower the right people to make critical customer-facing decisions.

Who do you have on the front lines of customer interaction in your business? Are they empowered to make decisions on how your business will react to certain types of customer-facing situations? Even if this is predetermined based on situational information, it could prove to earn, keep or retain your business customers and even turn frustrated customers into advocates, which is what happened in my case.