How To Lose A Customer

I had an interesting experience a couple of weeks ago. A client of mine gave me a connection to a business person she works with who is in the printing business. The printing company obviously did quality work and had been in business for many years. I contacted the man from the printing company about a possible joint venture. He was receptive and interested. We agreed to set up a time to meet. He was driving and talking on his cell phone at the time and so couldn’t access his calendar or write anything down. He agreed to call me back to set up an appointment.

When he hadn’t called me after a few days, I called and left him a voicemail and sent an email as well with some possible times to meet. I still didn’t hear back from him. So almost a week later I called again, asking for a return call or email even if he had decided he wasn’t interested. I never heard from him.

Now, as a small business coach, I am the first to understand how busy people are, how chaotic their lives can be, as well as how disorganized, and that it can take people time to return calls or email. I was very surprised, however, that this man never contacted me back. I wonder if he realizes that my opinion of his company has rapidly deteriorated. At this point, I would not recommend his company. And if someone ever mentions his company, I will share my story.

So this person lost a potential customer. He lost my goodwill. He lost my future referrals. And he has no idea what he has lost!

It’s that old statistic about a satisfied customer will tell 3 people about your product or service, a dissatisfied one will tell 17. In this case, I wasn’t even a customer yet.

My question to you is this: how outstanding is your customer service?

After this experience (and it happens with enough frequency that I wanted to write about it), I considered my own customer service for my clients in my coaching business. I often recommend calling customers or clients periodically and interviewing them about the customer service they are receiving, or better yet, having a third party do so, to get a more objective feedback.

However, my unscientific gut sense is that a significant part of why my clients stay with me is that I provide outstanding customer service. I answer every extra call and email within 24 hours, usually within hours. On the rare occasion when I miss that, I am apologetic and explain. My clients know that I truly care about them.

And not only my clients. I do my best to answer all emails and calls, even when not from a client. Lots of people read Ordinary Brilliance, for example, and send me responses and thoughts and I answer all of them.

There are some companies with outstanding customer service. Recently I had a vendor mess up. His immediate response was: “I want to apologize to you for the issue below….This should never happen and you have my word that we will do everything in our power to not let this happen again………I assure you that this will not happen again. I will be getting back with you with definitive answers on the issues below, so we can deliver high quality results every time. Again, I apologize.”

Let’s face it, problems DO happen. And when they do, HOW you deal with them makes all the difference. Because of this vendor’s response, I felt greatly reassured and confident about continuing our business relationship.

We’ve heard it so many times about the importance of customer service. Still, far too many businesses and organizations lag far behind. Great customer service alone can provide you with a true compelling advantage over competitors. Remember, the initial contact or sale is just the beginning of what you want to be a long term relationship.

© 2014 Anne Alexander, all rights reserved in all media

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