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Customer is King, not procedures…

b2cdicesYes, I have to admit I’m probably not the average consumer – although probably everybody might think that about themselves as well. I have a tendency of being more critical when it comes to customer service… especially in retail, the B2C businesses  or “business to consumer” for those not fond of acronyms.

shopcartkeyThe retail world is changing, nothing new there… It has been since the dark ages. But the changes are speeding up. The major change has been the shift of power from the B to the C. In other words, where in the old days old wise men (owners of the B) decided what we needed and pushed these products down our throats, this will not work anymore in todays’ economy of the western world. Maybe the same changes apply to elsewhere in the world , but I only know about these parts and did not want to assume this is the same all over the world. Today the C (the consumer that is) will decide and call the shots… and the service level has to follow or (s)he will no longer be your C…

Now the biggest challenge for B (businesses) is they operate on procedures… and they should, that is a good thing in general. However the problem with procedures is they tend to adapt (too) slow and being able to adapt will decide upon you reason for being. Good & empowered Customer Service I think is the buffer businesses need between the fast changing demands and the ability to catch up with their procedures. Good Customer Service will prevent the Consumer from getting frustrated or feeling cheated. Even when you’re not able to fulfil their needs immediately good Customer Service will leave behind a good feeling when doing (or not doing) business with you and will decide if the consumer returns or even becomes your ambassador…

customer-services-helpLet me demonstrate by this example of a missed opportunity from real life and my most recent frustration about Customer Service. Some weeks ago I ordered some clothing from a well known brand – McGregor -at the online store of their own brand. I had these delivered to a different address and added all the necessary info needed for a problem free delivery. I paid through Paypal and there they neglected to tell me this would affect the info the logistics division would get about my delivery address. Strange in itself already but if you know this is the case, set up some procedures to prevent possible issues I would think.
Not knowing about this issue I was happily expecting the arrival of my ordered goods… But nothing! The delivery company, not having the info I gave the shop, could not make the delivery and sent it back to sender. No biggie, shit happens… Easy fix you’d think.
customer-serviceI contacted Customer Service (by phone and followed up by e-mail) and then the frustration started building. A friendly lady explained what happened. So far so good, I’m understanding. These things happen, learn from your mistakes and move on would be my first reaction. But no, the friendly lady had absolutely no intention of solving my problem for me. Her proposed fix was: just reorder yourself the same items.
So… I trusted your shop, gave you my money and expected some goods in return. When these did not arrive, the solution would be to give you again more of my money and spend the extra time needed to reorder everything – which by the way was not even possible because lack of stock? No, I’m sorry… the correct solution would be the one who makes the mistake fixes the problem. So what Customer Service should have done is contact their logistics, have them add 1 word to the address label and retry the delivery. This would have been the fastest and cheapest fix of the issue. Alternatively they could have waited for the return to get back to them, create a new order for the Customer and reship it as a new order. No, instead of these two possible and rather simple solutions they decided to tell their Customer to redo all the work of reordering himself, knowing their lack of stock would make it impossible. Oops, your problem! We have to follow procedures (“Befehl ist Befehl”  remember?). Well… If you have no intention of solving the problem for your Customer what the hell you’re doing working in Customer Service!!!

Now they got me pissed (more of the same bad service happened but I will spare you the details) and McGregor lost a Customer with an approximate but realistic lifetime value of some 10.000 euro.

So my message to those concerned by Customer Service is the following… If, as a Customer Service Executive or Agent, you have no intention of solving the problem for your Customer, get out of Customer Service! If you’re an B2C organisation not willing to empower your Customer Service to solve problems, be prepared to lose out on a lot of money. Procedures are a good thing, but when it comes down to fixing it for your customer, choose the simplest solution available. Simplest for the Customer that is… So think again McGregor Fashion: Customer is King, not procedures…

Published in E'pinions