If you’re a friend with me on Facebook, or stalk my Tweets at all, you may have seen me slightly outraged by a certain furniture company whose service was so subpar, it caused me to rant publicly—something I don’t really do—and it’s really had me paying attention to things.
In the past three weeks, I’ve been on a bit of a spending and repair spree. Buying new things for the house, repairing broken things, and essentially going to a hundred different stores. The one thing I’ve noticed as of late is the customer service these stores and businesses provide, or lack there of.
In a single evening, I visited five different stores in which I had purchased items from that all were in need of repair, and out of those five stores, only one of them was accommodating. The other four were either very difficult to deal with, as I was not there to buy something so they were not interested in helping me, blatantly ignorant and rude to me, or so dismissive I actually thought perhaps my Starbucks contained some kind of invisibility potion. 80% of the businesses I dealt with in just a single evening treated me so poorly that I actually grew angrier with each store I stopped at. That just isn’t right. And all of this doesn’t even included the horrible experience I had at my local bookstores, but that’s a story for another time.
This started me on an angry letter-writing campaign where I sent legitimate complaints to the corporate offices of each business. This may seem a bit silly or archaic, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that these people were getting paid to make customers want to never return to the store, or at least that’s what it seemed like their jobs were. Out of all the letters I wrote, I received one response, and it was simply asking for information that I had already included in my original e-mail. For one business I even wrote two separate letters at different times, after two separate negative experiences, and I did not hear anything. This leaves me even more flabbergasted.
In this digital age, there is nothing I cannot buy online, and in most cases, purchasing online saves me anywhere from a little, to a substantial amount of money. The thing is, I don’t buy most of my things online. I like to physically see the product before I purchase it, and in all honesty, I like to deal with people. I like to know when I have a problem, I can go into the store and speak with someone. I don’t like dealing with automated phone services that make me spend fifteen minutes pushing different buttons just so I can be on hold. On top of all that, I like to shop locally. I want to support local businesses and contribute to my community. But the thing is, everything is cheaper online. I don’t need to come to your store. So what this means to me is that customer service is the ONLY thing you’ve got going for you. Bookstore? Great staff and service is the only thing that’s making me pay a 40% premium just to pick a book off your shelves versus the digital library. Electronics store? Talking with your staff and asking questions to make sure I find the right product is what keeps me coming in. If I really wanted I could do all the research I need to online and make a purchase that way. And this goes for every business. I know when I come in with a problem, that you aren’t making any money. You might even think it’s a waste of your time. But here’s the thing, first, I already spent money in your store and now I want that warranty you gave me honoured, and second, when I receive GOOD customer service, or deal with an AMAZING employee at your business, not only are you the first place I think of going when I need something your business provides, it’s the direction I point anyone who might ask.
We are in a fast-paced, online world, and connecting with your customers is more important than ever. I’m an author and I don’t even see my customers face to face and I know this. In my opinion, customer service is the most important thing in any business. You make or break that customer’s experience. When you break it, we’ll let everybody know who will listen, and when you make it, you stand out so far above the rest, the competition is instantly over and we’ll send anyone we can your way.
Now, I’m just some high school dropout that makes things up and writes them down, but I already know this, so how are these companies that hire college graduates who are are trained in all aspects of business and marketing unaware of this? How are those six-figure salaries being earned? How are you letting this huge facet of your business slip through the cracks? In this day and age, customer service is all you have going for you. If you can’t do that right, how am I supposed to trust you to do anything else?