Customer Service – Through the Recession and Beyond: Keep your customers coming back!

by Halisi

This has NOT been my week for good customer service.  It started with a trip to Walmart.  I walked into Walmart with an attitude because I don’t like shopping there; mainly because of their customer service, but secondarily because of their employee policies.  If we were not in a recession, if I were not saving for a major vacation, would I shop at Walmart?  NO! No way, No how, uh uh, absolutely positively NO!  But there I was, quickly walking with the hand basket filled with Good Customer Service - Keep your customers coming backthings too heavy for a hand basket.  I shop at odd hours, hoping to miss the crowds and it works.  But of course Walmart only has one or two check out counters open so there’s still a line. Yell

WALMART HAS LOST THE INTEGRITY OF ITS BRAND

When it’s my turn, I give the cashier my cash and she proceeds to try and hand me $4.00 IN QUARTERS!!!  Money is money and it all spends, but I do not want to carry 16 quarters in my change purse.  I quickly tell her that I have some one dollar bills and change and she can give me back a $10.00.  The cashier lifts one eyebrow and with an attitude says “my drawer is already closed, I cannot go back in it”.  Really?!?  Now I’m getting an attitude.  I request that she call the manager.  She informs me that she already has, that the manager is not responding, and “can you move my groceries so that I can continue checking out the people behind you”.  Oh no she didn’t…  Remember, I have items to heavy for a hand basket, and definitely to heavy for me to stand holding indefinitely while this mythical manager may or may not show up.  With each second that I stand there I begin to seethe.  I can feel the anger literally burning in my heart and I am pissed.  I am pissed that I shop there – I am pissed that right now price is more important than convenience or my experience.  But at that moment I vow that after the vacation money is saved I WILL NOT SHOP AT WALMART EVER AGAIN…unless God Himself tells me otherwise.  When the manager finally does appear with change for the cash register I have already turned from red to blue to purple.  The cashier hands me the paper change then turns to the next customer without a word to me.  No “sorry for your inconvenience ma’m” or “sorry for the wait”.  Nothing.

BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE PART II

Later that day, I call the car rental company that I’m using for our next extended weekend.  I need to add a day to the rental.  I noticed on my confirmation that I was given the weekly rate although I was only keeping the car for 5 days.  Great, I’ll call and get one day added for little to no money, right?  Wrong!  The person who answers the phone has an accent so thick that I can barely understand him.  (FYI Americans DO NOT like customer service call centers outsourced to other countries.  Americans barely understand our customer service needs much less folks from another culture.)  In fairness, I’m not sure if this company outsourced the call center or not, but they certainly have EXTREMELY LOW STANDARDS when choosing employees.  It took me 15 minutes to explain to him that I just wanted to add a day to my rental reservation.  I finally had to ask him, “am I being confusing?”  ”No ma’m” he insisted – yet we continued to go around in circles.  When he finally got the gist of my request he plugged some info into the computer and told me that my $136.00 reservation would go up to $449.63.

HUH!?!?  I explained to him what I explained in the earlier paragraph – I got the weekly rate, only keeping the car for 6 days, etc.  ”Well ma’m the screen says that the cost will be $449.63″  Silence.  I don’t know what to say.  I’m on the phone, in front of the computer looking at a daily rate of $50.00 – so the most I should have to pay is $186.00.  When I find my voice I tell him my search results.  ”The screen says ma’am…”  Okay, I have HAD ENOUGH!  ”Please get me someone that Get customers to come back to your restaurantcan do MORE THAN JUST READ THE SCREEN!!!”  Yes, I am  shouting at the man – which I almost never do – but he is getting the anger built up from Walmart – the anger pinned up in me from dealing with nonchalant, cavalier customer service personnel that have crossed my path over the last 5 years.

 

Keeping Your Customers Coming Back

1.  If you consider your business a low-cost leader make sure that your customer service is still top notch.  When the recession is over will you still get those customers who place customer service quality above pricing?

2.  Do not penny-pinch your way into bankruptcy.  The car rental story above (is true) and illustrates that you may have to pay a little more for quality employees but if trained properly they will return your investment 2-fold

3.  Your customers are doing you a favor by patronizing your establishment not the other way around!  Treat every one of your customers as if you are truly honored that they would spend their hard-earned money in your restaurant/store and they will come back for more.

 

Greg Verdino over at CMO to grow revamped and revised an article about making your customers feel uncomfortable.  He writes about business practices and procedures that meet a genuine need within the business but their ancillary effects can make their customers feel awkward or uncomfortable.  As I’ve written about before, branding is much more than your logo, it is the feelings and experience that customers have when they are involved with your products/services.  If you have the best pizza in the city, hands down; yet your customer service is wanting – chances are you will probably go out of business or at the very least your business will stagnate.  If you are one of only three pizza joints in town you might be okay; but can your brand withstand more competition?

  • Treat your customers like royalty
  • Remember their names
  • Create a birthday club and send them signed birthday cards
    • If you’re really on the ball you can include a picture of them from their last birthday
Protecting your brand and treating your customers with the graciousness they deserve will keep them coming back — recession or no recession.

 

 

 

 

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