As I am wont to do, this morning a tweeted a complaint about a customer service issue I had with a company that I had spent several thousand dollars with over the past eight years. Essentially over a matter of $75.
And as so happens many times on Twitter, a very helpful friend offered to hook me up with someone at the company in question who could make things better for me.
I politely – and hopefully, very gratefully – declined to take this person up on the offer.
Because I believe when customers expend capital and energy in developing loyalty and relationships – especially over months and years – that they deserve to be treated commensurate with their dedication to the company / brand / relationship.
And that they deserve this treatment BEFORE you piss them off to the point of leaving.
This latest incident represents the second time in the past year I have essentially “fired” a company over customer service, and each time the relationships went back almost to the beginning of the origins of my company.
Which really goes to show several things:
- I usually will stick with a company on the premise that my relationship and loyalty matter, even putting up with mild inconvenience in return for a modicum of consideration of my loyalty,
- That it takes a lot to piss me off,
- And when you DO piss me off, it’s usually for good.
Coincidentally enough, in both cases I was approached AFTER the ill will and bad feelings were entrenched with offers to “make things right.”
Which leads me to ask the obvious: why, when I was trying to make things right and your representatives were holding to the index card scripts and not budging an inch, was THAT not the time to recognize my loyalty? Why is it only after your brand is irreparably damaged with me, and someone up the chain looks and says “holy shit, this customer has spent a few grand with us over the years!” (if indeed that EVER happens) that you THEN make the attempt to address the bad customer service experience?
Why not use common sense and EMPOWER your customer service departments to do the right thing from the start PROACTIVELY, not REACTIVELY?
The answer is obvious – money. It must be cheaper to go out and simply get new customers than retain old ones in some industries.
That, or the accountability of customer retention is so far up the food chain that no one ever really feels the brunt of losing high value (i.e., customers who pay their bill on time for extended periods of time) customers.
I can tell you this – I personally feel the sting of every one of my customers who was unhappy with us, even years later. Call it a personal failing.
Over time, the marketplace becomes the great equalizer of these customer service wrongs.
Sprint / Nextel, Comcast, Dell… all of these have paid a price in the marketplace because of poor customer service practices. They certainly aren’t unique in this regard – just look at what is happening in the airline industry (aside from the ravages of high energy costs).
Customers eventually DO vote with their feet, given the opportunity. Don’t give them the opportunity. Treat them like the valued assets that they are – you know – the people that pay your salaries, enable your kids to be fed and clothed, and who make your day to day existence possible.