Question: In this day and age of heightened customer service awareness, why are there still businesses that deliver such a lousy customer experience?
Answer: You are so right about this observation. For a number of years we’ve seen a barrage of books and articles about how companies are more focused on delivering top quality customer service. But for some reason, on a regular basis there’s still a disconnect between the theory and the practice.
For more than 20 years my wife and I went to the same dentist – every six months like we’re supposed to do. During my final encounter with this dentist I asked him to do some minor cosmetic work on my front teeth and inquired as to the cost. He quoted an amount; we scheduled an appointment, and the work was performed. When I received the bill I was in for a shock. It was double what he had told me. Because he is so hard to reach in person during the day, I sent him an e-mail explaining the situation. His response was, “What I quoted was for one tooth.” Now I don’t know about you, but I liken this to having the brake pads replaced on your car and the mechanic gives you a quote for one brake pad. I told the dentist how disappointed I was that he had not made his pricing clearer. He responded that in the future, each patient would receive such a quote in writing to eliminate any confusion. What he failed to do however, was apologize to me and knock some amount (any amount would have been fine) off my bill. As a result, he lost two patients forever. How simple it would have been to show a bit more consideration by simply acknowledging the mistake and making a minor financial adjustment.
Here’s another 20+ year story. A certain pool company has received thousands of dollars from me over that timeframe through opening and closing our swimming pool as well as replacing the liner two or three times and servicing our hot tub. This year the pool was opened on schedule. Normally the cover is removed, chemicals dumped in the water, the pump and filter are started and the crew comes back a few days later to vacuum and finish the clean-up. We’ve had a wet spring and as a result the company fell behind on its schedule and never came back to finish the job. Of course they weren’t hesitant to send me a bill which I quickly paid. I placed several phone calls during which I was told they’d “take care of it.” An e-mail went unanswered. Finally a month later I hired someone else to finish the job and sent a letter to the owner of the pool company terminating their services. Ironically, the same day the opening was finally finished, the pool crew showed up only to realize their job had been completed by another party. To this day I haven’t heard a peep out of the owner of the pool company. And of course he wasn’t honorable enough to refund a portion of what I had paid.
It is important to remember that when serving others the key to keeping a customer happy is honesty and communications. We humans will tolerate an awful lot as long as we feel that we are being treated fairly and have expectations communicated to us in a clear and timely manner. Lack of these elements shows disrespect and is the main reason we quit companies that serve us. Yes, we want performance and quality products. But the way we are treated is equally important if not more so.
There’s a very simple yet powerful adage to remember that will ensure that we will keep our customers happy. It goes like this. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.