I really should be working on one of several papers I have to write for school, but something happened that screams for me to address here.
Since many of my readers are young, and have limited experience and skills, Customer Service is probably where many of you will start (and even finish) your career path. Customer Service should be a pretty simple concept for you to grasp: Your job is to help a customer fulfill their needs at your particular company. Doesn’t sound too hard, does it? Here’s my situation.
First, a little background. It’s that time of year when people spend a lot of money on things that other people probably don’t need, and I’ve been doing a lot of shopping online for presents. I detest going to malls at this time of year, and since many places offer items online that I couldn’t find near me anyways, most with free shipping, online is the way to go. My wife and I have decided that we were not going to buy anything on credit if we could avoid it. Luckily, we have planned and saved to make this a reality. So instead, I use my debit card. Aside from all of the arguments by people who like to use credit cards because they feel there is some potential benefit from doing so instead of using debit cards (they are wrong, by the way, but that’s a subject for another post), I like using my debit card because I really have faith in my financial institution. More than I do any of the companies that run my credit cards.
In what is really pretty common, one company placed a pre-authorization hold for the aggregate balance of my purchases there. For those who don’t know what a pre-authorization hold is, there is a whole process, but I’ll boil it down to this: When you use plastic to pay for something, it takes time for the transaction to work its way through the company’s bank and out of yours. During that time, the money you spent is spoken for. They have a right to that money (in most cases), so they hold it until the money can come out. The problem is that the transactions were not authorized in aggregate, but individually. So, the money came out individually. My financial institution didn’t know that I didn’t do one big transaction for the whole amount, so they were still waiting for that transaction would clear. It wasn’t a terribly big deal since I have a cushion to fall back on, but what happened was a little annoying. The aggregate amount was held, and each individual item came through. Again, I have more than enough money in the account, but because of the way the system works, my account was double dipped and I was assessed two fees for paying the items.
1. WHEN YOU GREET A CUSTOMER, TRY TO SOUND LIKE YOU CARE ABOUT THIS PERSON AND YOUR JOB.
Here’s where the problem comes in. I call my institution, and the rep who answers sounds like she is reading her greeting. Okay, a couple of things here: I used to work at the institution in question and I knew the girl who answered. In fact, I trained her when she first was hired. We’ve met. Once she saw my account, she still sounded robotic. Now, I know what you are thinking, “Wil, how many Wil Stantons are there in California that might bank with this institution? How was she to know it was you?” The answer to the first question is exactly one. Remember, I used to work there. That’s one of the first things that most people do when they work at a financial institution: They see if anyone with their name banks there. The second question has a little more merit, but for one thing. My institution has a nifty little feature that allows the account holder to give nicknames to their accounts. I love this feature, and I take full advantage of it. The nicknames I gave my account are memorable in their inappropriateness to a banking professional.
2. WHEN YOU ARE TALKING TO THE PERSON WHO TRAINED YOU, MAKE SURE YOU ARE ON YOUR BEST GAME. DON’T MAKE YOUR TRAINER FEEL LIKE THEY WASTED THEIR TIME WITH YOU.
I explained the situation, told her I knew that this wasn’t something they did purposely, but I asked if she could fix the problem or refer me to someone who could. I knew that this would be done with no problems, so I didn’t think the conversation would be very long. She put me on hold without asking and was gone for a long time.
3. IF YOU ARE ON THE PHONE WITH A CUSTOMER, AND YOU HAVE TO PUT THEM ON HOLD, ASK THEIR PERMISSION AND WAIT FOR THEM TO RESPOND BEFORE YOU PUT THEM ON HOLD.
4. DON’T PUT SOMEONE ON HOLD FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME WITHOUT A VERY GOOD REASON. IT’S BETTER TO CHECK IN ON THE PERSON AND LET THEM KNOW WHY THERE IS A DELAY.
When she finally came back, she said that she would reverse the fees “as a courtesy”, but that I needed to make sure I kept enough money in my account so this wouldn’t be a problem again. Before I could respond, she said thank you for calling and hung up.
5. NEVER PATRONIZE YOUR CUSTOMER. IF THE MEMBER IS NOT WRONG, DON’T TRY TO MAKE THEM FEEL LIKE THEY ARE BY GIVING THEM A POINTLESS LECTURE.
6. IF YOU KNOW WHAT THE END RESULT OF A CUSTOMER REQUEST WILL BE, DON’T’ MAKE THE CUSTOMER JUMP THROUGH ADDITIONAL HOOPS IN ORDER TO MAKE THE END RESULT HAPPEN, JUST DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO.
7. WHEN CLOSING A CONVERSATION, ALLOW THE CUSTOMER TO ALSO CLOSE BEFORE HANGING UP (OR WALKING AWAY FROM THEM) AND MOVING TO THE NEXT PERSON.
Now, I’m not going to switch institutions, because this person was stupid. I’m not even going to contact her boss and point out the problems with my customer experience. I don’t believe doing so would change anything, and her particular manager is a complete idiot. She came on as I was on my way out of the company. But I’m not the kind of customer that they should worry about. Think about all the people that you piss off in a day and never see them again. Sure, they aren’t complaining about you to you or your boss, but I guarantee they are talking about your stupidity to their friends.
8. WHEN YOU SCREW UP AT WORK AND THE CUSTOMER DOESN’T COMPLAIN ABOUT YOU TO YOUR BOSS, DON’T THINK YOU ARE IN THE CLEAR. THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT YOU AND YOUR COMPANY TO ALL OF THEIR FRIENDS AND THOSE FRIENDS ARE TALKING TO OTHER FRIENDS.
The problem is that you have no way of fixing the experience if the person doesn’t give you one. Best case scenario is that you only lose one customer. Chances are, you are also losing out on all those other customers that you never meet.