by Peter Sorgenfrei
As a small research business we are the back office, the middle office and the front office when it comes to serving our customers. By design, we get involved with all aspects of the business, from project definition, execution, reporting, invoicing up to the occasional call to ask them to please pay us.
A key principle always guides us: make sure the customer or the potential customer has a great experience no matter what part of the office they deal with or what the issue is. It does not matter who is at fault; we live by by the mantra “the customer is always right”.
Regardless of the circumstances, we need the client to walk away with a feeling that we cared and we took care of them. In our 6 years in business we have not had clients who did not love the experience we provide. That makes us feel great and we work hard every day to make sure it stays that way.
Because of this, we have a hard time understanding why we encounter poor customer service so often. We know that a front-line employee (on the phone, on a chat or in person) can have a bad day, not have the right materials/tools to solve/address our inquiry, or just be out of luck because someone else messed up and they have to deal with it. It happens to the best of us, but the true customer service experts don’t let it get in their way of delivering the best experience possible for a customer.
This morning was the latest example of poor customer service. One of the most expensive health clubs in the country, Equinox, was paid a visit by yours truly. I wanted to sign up, I was ready to pay their inflated prices because I had heard only good things about the place and because let’s face it, the high cost would motivate me to go on a regular basis. I had already been there once, gotten a phone call from the member services person asking me to come in and take advantage of a year end offer.
I will not bore you with all the details, but here is what happened in brief: I showed up earlier than the person I was scheduled to meet so I planned on working out, showering and then meeting with her to sign up. I was told I could do none of those, without paying a $25 fee. When I questioned the rationale behind the fee and inquired whether it would be applied to my first month fee, the front line person did everything wrong.
He was rude, inflexible (over a small $25 access payment) and would not even listen to questions for clarification (so I was sure to have my facts straight for later conversation – he literally said: “I don’t need to understand your perspective!”). In the end he potentially lost a customer who over the next three years might pay upwards of $20K for membership, training session, food, etc. I say potentially, because after writing a note to the CEO of Equinox and the GM of the location I got a call from the GM wanting to make good and apologize. I am still considering what to do.
So there you have it. If you are in the customer service business, you know you only have a business if you have happy customers. Make sure the people in your organization that actually face the customers knows that your brand is only as good as your brand representatives. My people certainly know..