If you’re gonna suck, do it with service

I do like pushing things with headlines, which works with this little rant on customer service. Which will get a Part Deux, Uverse from Hell Boogaloo .. once I’ve calmed down. Anyhoodle.

Customer Disservice FTW 

Despair Demotivators® “don’t work even better” because they get it. But companies like Netflix with the plethora of blog posts telling them how to right their ship STILL cannot buy a clue.

Shit Happens. 

A year ago I begged my – former! – dry cleaner to suck less.

Another trip to the dry cleaner prompts a different kind of customer service and PR horror story: screwing up the right way. After ruining a nice beaded evening jacket, the owner:

  1. Apologized.
  2. Didn’t have the nerve to try to charge me for the cleaning.
  3. Immediately offered to replace the damaged item.

All of this done without my having to throw a fit.

What’s in it for them?

  • My business. No guarantees they’ll keep it but we’ll see how it goes (still shopping). Are they willing to pay cash when I find a comparable item? Or give me a store credit (more likely)?
  • My silence. It didn’t matter to the other place, but I did downrate them on sites like Yelp and Google. If I’m satisfied with how this gets resolved, I doubt I’ll be taking the time.
  • My praise? Doubtful in this case, but for many small businesses this could be an opportunity in disguise. Turning a mistake around, finding a solution and showing your value is how you can turn someone not only into a loyal customer, but a brand advocate and nice PR too.

It’s said all the time: mistakes will happen, no matter how much planning you do. It’s what happens next, after the screw up – THAT is what separates the starting lineup from those riding the pine. When you’ve made a mistake, bring your A game and make it right.

Have you ever made good on a mistake and lived to tell the tale? Do tell.

8 thoughts on “If you’re gonna suck, do it with service

  1. Not my mistake but I got blamed for it… I had a customer purchase an item off of my online shop. The item name and description showed in the cart, on her PayPal invoice, and she would have had several chances to see she had the wrong item in her cart. She did not. She checked out, I sent her the item she placed in her cart, and a few days later got an angry email saying I “ruined her daughter’s life”. I politely emailed back and asked how I could help her and what the problem was. She was irate, instead she berated me over several emails, called me every name you can think of, and despite the fact it was her mistake, insisted I should have known what she meant to buy- how, I’m not sure because I have no idea who this person is except that she ordered an item from my shop. Had she been polite, I probably would have sent her the item she had intended to get immediately but because she felt the need to treat me like human garbage, I just told her she was welcome to send the item back, I would refund her minus shipping, and she could buy what she intended to from the beginning. Nope. More name calling. I gave up. Moral of the story? I would have gone out of my way to make her happy and to hopefully ensure a returning customer had she been polite and respectful.
    Debra Wilson recently posted..I Just Can’t Win!

    1. And there will always been people like that Debra, always. Totally NOT your fault and you did everything YOU could. As you say, we go out of our way to make things right.. end of the day, have to call it like it is and learn from it. Only opportunity I see for you: maybe double up on your checkout/cart review, give customers (and you) extra protection so they are sure of what they order. FWIW.

  2. I’ve had to pony up to recover a customer many times. I think most business owners are just so tired of getting taken advantage of that they immediately revert to a defensive posture. They’d rather win the argument than win the customer.

    To me, the key is to approach each customer as an individual and recognize each set of circumstances as unique. Don’t carry the baggage from a tough client into your dealings with the next client.

    PS: I still think your RSS is wacky. I’m still not getting your updated posts.
    Adam Toporek recently posted..Monthly Mash: Customer Experience Tools and Secret Service

    1. I’ve been on that side of things Adam and it’s tough: those chronic complainers who can never be made happy, like those who want Ritz Carlton experience at the $70 no-tel motel or think a ‘Fresh Fish Cafe’ has way too much seafood on the menu.

      But like you said, it’s the determination to win the argument .. and it doesn’t have to be. Simply discuss things w/ customers, see any misunderstandings, any miscommunications that may have skewed expectations and then, make efforts to fix it. Do it well, it’s win for both sides. FWIW.

      And YES my RSS is completely jacked. Wasted hours over a few weeks, given up precious time on Saturdays. I’ve kinda washed my hands of it which sucks b/c usually I CAN Google my way to a WP fix. One thing I’d love to find: reliable, reasonable WP support but the few places I try want IMO too much $$ for what is probably a 10-minute fix. Been down this road before, already had to pay too much to have a database – that should NOT have been so easy for me to zap [one click, no warning] – restored. I’ll take a whack at fixing again soon, maybe even try moving directories (terrifying, since I don’t really know WTH I’m doing) around, see if I can fix it. But also.. it’s a waste of time since I’m thinking of going all WP.. more excuses and way TMI for ya, sorry. 🙂

  3. Just doing the right thing sometimes involves money and people are hesitant to ‘make it right’ if it will cost them direct dollars. Forget the fact they might lose the customer, they don’t want to ‘pay up’. Sometimes it also depends on ‘how much’ money it’s going to take to make it right.

    The other thing is, if your service is very marginal to begin with and you would be shelling out dollars all the time, then you have to pick your poison as to what is going to put you out of business first; chasing off customers or fixing your mistakes.
    Bill Dorman recently posted..My personal quest for 10,000

    1. Wait til ya read Monday’s post Bill. I waited a few days to schedule it – so I could 1) calm down and 2) edit the cursing. ‘Pay up or lose the customer’ is not the only option; per my conversation with Shakirah, I’m really noticing some businesses are marketing-proof and Monday’s post is about the phone/cable/internet company and we all know how horrible they can be.

      Read a post a few weeks ago, a restaurant owner – sick of apologizing for chronic poor service – sacked everyone. Ya know, I’d do it; apologize to guests, ask them to stick with me as we hired and trained better staff, give discounts during the turnaround. But some businesses don’t care if they loose a customer, plenty more suckers out there.

      I’m still on the hunt for a comparable replacement item, so the jury’s still out of the cleaner makes good; but the offer, that’s a step in the right direction at least. FWIW.

  4. I was gonna share this at Adam’s place, but this appears to be the better venue for a customer service downer I was tempted to turn into a PR horror story:

    I see a coat for my little one on eBay. Gotta have it, but it’s the wrong size. I beg Google to find another one for me, and it does, but only in one place: a tiny outfit in the southern boondocks of these united. It is nowhere else to be found. I call because they don’t have an online order form. They appear genuinely shocked that I am calling, and I get repeated questions over the course of our communications about how I found them. I keep saying Google. They say they haven’t received the coats yet, but wait a couple weeks. I do and call back. They have them, and I make sure they have the right size. They do, but their machine won’t take the numbers to my credit card when they punch it in. They request a money order. It’s cheap (unbelievably so), so I don’t smell a scam, but the hairs on the back of my neck are on end until they say they’ve sent it. Relief. Until I receive a coat of the same brand and general description (brown and pink) but not The Coat.

    I call. “What website did you find us at again?” “Your website.” “I’m in charge of our website, and we don’t have pictures up yet.” “Yes you do.” I give them the url, and show them the page I was looking at. The website is theirs, but it’s an abandoned one from two years ago, and so is the coat. The coat I’ve received is part of this season’s line from the same brand.

    The “owner” is out, so I have to wait till Monday to talk. I wait. Wednesday the clerk calls back. She tells me I can return it if I pay shipping. I tell her what I want: to keep the coat (it was cute anyway, and apparently I’m never going to find The Coat), and get my shipping back. Just a good-will gesture. I wait while she converses.

    “The owner says the best she can do is give you half your shipping back.” I ask why. She says the owner says the coat was low cost. I am unaware shop owners make their money entirely from shipping, especially when the boutique appeared to be unaccustomed to shipping items anywhere. I reiterate the fact that the faulty communication all came from their side. She says the owner says that’s final. I tell her I hope the owner will reconsider, and hang up.

    I ruminate about how easily I could crush their brand with a tweet or two, but it’s not possible: no one beyond a 30-mile radius probably knows the shop exists, and they’re happy that way.
    Shakirah Dawud recently posted..“You Are Your Words,” Says American Heritage Dictionary

    1. This story is so much like my first dry cleaning tale of horror Shakirah. (And sorry about your coat dramarama.) You snacked that nail right on the head: hard as it is to imagine, some businesses are – for lack of a better word – marketing-proof.

      It’s usually the utilities, with the “devil you know” selection of ‘options’ or ‘location, location, location’ places. My ex-cleaners has a good location so unless they ruin half the clothes they touch, they’ll probably be fine. On the flip side, would all the buzz – positive or negative – make you go far out of your way elsewhere? Doubt it, I just went around the corner.

      Another example I always share, one of my liquor and wine emporiums, no website even. Don’t need one, good selection, service, reasonable prices and great location. Hmm, now I’m thinking of a post, if this is really the way it is??? Is that coat shop, while impervious to criticism elsewhere, really the only game in town? You found them so the opposite is true: their dissatisfied customers could get fed up and Google them right out of biz, right? FWIW.

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