Customer Service Rules in a Connected Society

Posted on Sunday, July 31st, 2011

During one of my favourite activities (read: least favourite activities), of catching a train, a realisation struck me. The old rules of customer service no longer apply in today’s world.

It used to be that, in a world where no one had internet or Twitter on their phones, in fact, in a world where no one had a mobile phone, that it was good enough to man a few type writers and a couple of phone lines (during office hours), and everyone would be happy. But in todays connected world, if someone has a problem with your product or service, which they’re angry (like I often am), they’ll tweet, blog, Facebook and four square about it. If that means its 6pm on a Friday, and your customer service rep has logged off for the weekend, that can mean a _long_ wait for a reply, or even worse, a long time for the social snowball to gain traction.

Let me elaborate with an example. Right now, I’m standing up on a packed train heading into London, where the air conditioning appears to be non-functional. To add to that, i very nearly didn’t get a ticket (as my ticket involves using a ticket desk, which was manned but no one was there for over 10 minutes). If I would have gotten on the train without a ticket (which was my only other option) I most certainly would have been given a fine when I get into London, despite this being clearly their issue. Could I have called a customer service line? Nope, they’re only staffed during the week, and besides, the number isn’t listed anywhere. Could I have tweeted? Yep, but the user hasn’t been active since Friday.. I have no option but to lump it, and take on the burden myself.

It’s this kindof poor service that’s made me realise, the golden rule of customer service is,

If your business is open, so is your customer service. In the above example, if I would have known I could access customer service easily and quickly, or even gained a response, I would not only feel more comfortable using the service, but I’d feel less inclined to be wound up by poor staffing levels.

This applies to websites as well, if you’re taking orders, you should be contact able for customer service (that doesn’t just mean a contact form). I know for some of you, with small businesses and few or no employees will find that hard, but simply setting an out of office to set expectations will help enormously when dealing with complaints or queries. Hiding your details (or showing that your live customer chat) is offline will not help.

So remember, next time your list your customer contact details, what’s best for the customer.. Not your bottom line, because a happy customer, is a repeat customer.

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This post has stuff to do with Rant, Social Media