Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Customer Service: Wash your hands as Pilate did?

Don't ever wash your hands as Pilate did!
It’s been my goal through this blog to share with you information that might help you obtain more benefits out of your marketing and advertising activities, whether in social networks or not.

Sometimes, I have written based on my personal opinions, while others it’s been based on real life experiences.

This time, I will share with you something I've experienced personally while trying to get my laptop fixed by a technician.

I’m not including the company’s name because it’s not about damaging anyone’s reputation, but rather, learning from the things that happen in the real world so that we can all make a better job servicing our customers.

You’ve got to learn how to use your own mistakes to improve and grow better.

First I'll tell you what happened to me and then will highlight what I believe were the errors, the things that shouldn’t have happened and how I think it should have been done to avoid unpleasant situations for the customer.

Six months ago I had to take my laptop to the technician because it suddenly stopped working. After its diagnosis, it was found the hard drive was faulty and needed to be replaced.
Since it was the second time the same thing happened, the technician told me she would try to retrieve the information on the hard drive then send it back to the factory because it was still under warranty. She said it would take about twenty working days for the hard drive to be replaced, which at the time seemed quite a long time for me, but since I didn’t have a choice, I accepted it.
A month passed and the technician didn’t contact me about my computer, so I decided to stop by the store to see what was going on. To my surprise, the technician told me its supplier hadn’t answered yet. I’d have to wait a couple more weeks.
Two weeks went by, and being on the same “I-don’t-know-what’s-going-on” situation, I decided to stop by the store, again. One more time, the technician did have nothing. This time the story was that the factory was 6 months behind on the resolution of guarantees.
Again, I had to wait. The technician told me there was nothing she could do, that it wasn’t in her hands. I asked her to please come up with a solution because I really needed to have my laptop fixed and back. She said to understand, but what could she do?
Back to the waiting process, I let one more month to go by, believing this time the technician would get back to me as soon as my situation was solved, but again nothing. Getting a little exasperated, I decided to stop by again to see what’s going on. I really expected a different response this time, but I found the technician shrugged, saying the same thing, with no answer for me.
I finally got upset. After three months waiting I needed to tell the technician how wrong this all had been and told her if she didn’t solve my problem, I was taking my laptop somewhere else and asking for a refund of what I initially paid for the hard drive. Apparently from that conversation on, the technician is taking it more seriously and will probably have my problem resolved soon.

This was more than a week ago. Yesterday I did stop by to pick up my laptop and take it back home with the hard drive fixed.

Let’s see which the mistakes were on this situation.

The bold text on the story is mine and is meant to highlight situations I believe were poorly managed and that could have been done differently focusing on the customer, so that he doesn’t get upset with the company and ends up taking his business somewhere else, as I will do in this case.

  • She said it would take about twenty working days: If you depend on your vendors to service your customers or, specifically, to resolve an incident like this one, you should explain that clearly from the beginning. Make sure your customer understands the situation is not completely in your hands and delivery dates don’t depend on you. Although it’s not the most professional thing you can do, at least you're being upfront honest with your customer and being clear from the beginning.
  • A month passed and the technician didn’t contact me about my computer: it ain’t possible that, with all means available today (SMS, WhatsApp, email, Facebook, or just a phone call), you haven’t taken the time to contact your client for a quick update. Maybe for the technician it was simply one more computer to fix, but for me it was MY computer, MY tool. For me, it did matter. If you've committed yourself for a specific date, and you’re not going to deliver, the worst thing you can do is to remain silent and not contact your client. Your silence, apart from being unprofessional, is showing your customer that you don’t really care about his situation, and that's not what you meant, did you?
  • The factory was 6 months behind on the resolution of guarantees: You should consider this one a NO-NO: Don’t wash your hands as Pilate did, telling your client that the responsible one is another person, because for your client it neither is of his interest or solves the problem. In addition, your client is doing business with you, not your vendor. In any case, you’ll earn the gold medal by apologizing to your customer when your suppliers screw up, taking full responsibility for the situation and showing you do care, but never, really NEVER put the responsibility on your suppliers.
  • I found the technician shrugged, saying the same thing, with no answer for me. If you've already failed your client several times, try to anticipate their reactions. Don’t wait for them to come to you asking for a response. Do follow up properly and reach out for them before they do. Show them how important they are to your business, and that you want to continue working with them. Don’t ever stay crossed arms and do nothing. That simply makes your client feel that it’s not important to you and will go with your competitors. Is that what you want? I would think not, but in any case is a decision you have to make.
  • Apparently from that conversation on, the technician is taking it more seriously: Don’t wait for this moment to come. If you get this far, you will probably lose a customer. In my case, I’m not bringing my computers back to this store. I know I’ve to find another technician to work with, but neither me or my wife will be coming back to this one. And when someone asks me about them, you already know what my response is going to be.

This is what is called "a chain of errors": It all started six months ago, and little by little escalated to what it is today. Maybe in your business you’ve already been through it a few times.

In any case, note how many errors can occur in a situation as simple as this one, in which you’re solving a small problem. Can you imagine what would happen if, instead of a simple laptop, it had been something more serious?

Or is it that just because the situation appears to be simpler than others, it means we pay less attention to it?

Related post: Loyalty and CKCH: When is it that you really lose a customer?

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