Editorial - October 2013

September 23, 2013
Written by
Good employees can truly make or break a business, and this is especially true with customer service.

We all have good and bad customer service experiences. And of course, we should have many more of the former and very few of the latter.

Noted industrialist Henry Ford said, “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”

I recently had a frustrating experience with a poorly functioning cellphone. It couldn’t hold a charge beyond an hour or two, so the store I bought it through said I needed a new battery. But not to worry, I was told, it’s covered by the extended warranty I had purchased.

There were many delays that followed, and it finally took six weeks to obtain a new battery from the manufacturer. No one could explain why it took so long to send the replacement battery. No one at the store took ownership of the problem on my behalf.

I’m now in the market for a new phone. What are the chances of me buying a phone (or any other product) from this manufacturer or this store in the near future?

Compare this experience with that of a window installation company I contacted quite recently. I had broken a window locking mechanism, and inquired about a replacement part. The company had installed the windows about a dozen or so years ago. One of its salespeople came out to the house, determined exactly what part I needed … and was back a day later to install the new part. Free of charge. He inspected the other windows and offered some preventive maintenance tips to ensure we wouldn’t be having any more problems.

I immediately sent an e-mail to the company letting them know how impressed I was with this level of customer service, and that I would have no problem recommending the company to friends and/or relatives in the market for new windows or doors. My letter of thanks is on their website, along with several similar letters from other customers.

Is your company known for superior customer service? How would you know? Do you send out online customer satisfaction surveys with your regular e-newsletters?

“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful,” said Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com.

Are your frontline employees empowered to go the extra mile (kilometre?) in keeping customers happy? Is issuing a refund a complicated process? Do you have employees designated to help customers load their vehicles? “There are no traffic jams along the extra mile,” said NFL great Roger Staubach.

It’s often said that it takes five to 10 times more time and effort to attract new customers than it does to retain existing ones. The market is very competitive, and it’s hard to stand out.

And that’s why exceptional customer service is so important. A business can’t survive today without it ... nor should it.

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