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Whatever Happened to Customer Service?

April 27, 2010

We take customer service for our time and attendance software very seriously. When customers need help with their time clock software, or prospective customers have questions about Virtual TimeClock, we want to leave them delighted by the experience. But have you ever tried to define customer service? Some would certainly say it's how well a company consistently meets the needs of its customers. But that sounds like the focus is on the company meeting some minimum level of customer acceptance, and not on the customer whose needs may be unique and not even fully known. I think the definition of good customer service can only come from the customer. If customers are delighted by the service they receive, then that's good customer service. Even though companies try to objectively measure customer service success, it's essentially individual and subjective. What it takes to delight one customer may be qualitatively and quantitatively different from what it takes to delight another.


I had a recent customer service experience that I'd like to share. I had the unpleasant duty of needing to switch my broadband from DSL to cable, which meant switching Internet service providers. I called to set everything up, a 6 month promotional rate and then 6 months at the regular rate. Of course, it took longer than I expected. Of course, I was skeptical of the promotional promises. Of course, I had been lied to by the time the transaction was completed. But it was done, I wouldn't even need to think about it for another year, or would I?


Then I received my first invoice. I wasn't billed at the promotional rate I had agreed to when signing up. Score: Jeff = 0, ISP = 1. So I called the number on the invoice as directed if I had any billing questions. The live attendant said I'd need to call a different number before 6:00pm in order to get help with a billing question. I was thanked for my business, well wished, and asked if anything else could be done for me. Score: Jeff = 0, ISP = 2. The second call (before 6:00pm this time) went something like this: "We don't even offer a promotion for that amount", "We have a promotion that almost matches, but it requires phone service and you didn't order phone service", "The computer won't let me just enter an amount, I have to have a promotional code". I was told my best bet would be to start an instant online chat with someone in sales. Again, I was thanked for my business, well wished, and asked if anything else could be done for me. Score: Jeff = 0, ISP = 3. So I moved on to the infamous online chat. This time I was told that promotion was no longer available, but they'd see what they could do. Questions, waiting, more questions, more waiting. I was finally offered a solution that seemed satisfactory. I couldn't get the 6 month promotional rate I was promised, but I could get a slightly higher rate for a longer period of time. I immediately jumped at the opportunity because 1) this promotion may not be available after the next 5 minutes, and 2) it saved me more money in the long run than the original, and that's a good thing. Again, I was thanked for my business, well wished, and asked if anything else could be done for me. For the first time I could answer, "No thanks, you've done enough." So here's my little customer service analysis based on this recent experience.

What they did wrong:
  1. Don't lie to your customers, ever.
  2. Don't dangle a carrot in front of your customers and then yank it away because they don't meet some hidden qualification.
  3. Don't put the blame on another person, the computer, or the "system".
  4. Don't make your customers do all the leg work to get their issue resolved.
What they did right:
  1. Kept accurate, up-to-date documentation in my record that even included the original promotional amount I was offered.
  2. At least 1 person took responsibility until a solution was found.
  3. Found something better for me, rather than just an equivalent offer.

Let me leave you with an analogy. Boiled chicken can meet certain of my nutritional needs, but it doesn't have much flavor. It doesn't delight the palette to say the least. But take your boiled chicken and combine it with other ingredients to make kung pao chicken, and now you've got a dish that delights the senses (at least mine, remember customer service is a subjective experience). I know Redcort Software has learned a few things about customer service after nearly 15 years in the time and attendance software industry. And I hope we continue to provide customer service that delights the senses of each individual we come into contact with.


Have a comcastic day!

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