Are your customers important to you?

Over the last few months I have had very few customer experiences, but of the few I have had, most have been bad. The service received in the three examples I use in this blog ranges from poor to extremely bad, so I was interested to read an article in the Telegraph recently which said that a study they had undertaken discovered that only one third of major retailers allowed customers to contact them by both phone and email, which disadvantages a huge number of customers.

Big is not always beautiful in terms of customer service and in my experience, big companies have become less and less competent at what they do. This provides smaller organisations with such an opportunity to steal a march on the big businesses when dealing with their customers, because they can respond more quickly and most importantly, can provide a much better personal experience to 'wow' their customers. Small (and medium sized) can be beautiful when it comes to providing a good customer experience, which results in repeat business and more recommendations.

The pandemic has really made one thing stand out and that is how important human relationships and interaction with other humans are. When it comes to doing business, that human interaction is so important, even with tech savvy youngsters. Done properly, a human focused customer service will give businesses the edge against their competitors. As an HR and People business, we really understand the impact of human relationships on individuals and organisations.

How good would it be, in this post Brexit world, to see smaller UK companies really flourish, with that extra business coming because they provide a better customer experience?

Two of my bad experiences were with big customers, both of whom need to be named and shamed, but the one that disappointed me most was the one with my estate agent, a smaller local business. It was glaringly obvious to me that the sole reason for the poor response I received to an issue I had was that the individual concerned had quite simply not been trained in how to deal with customer complaints. Had he been trained in how to diffuse my frustration, the whole situation would have been much less traumatic, both for him and for me. In his response to my complaint, he quite simply said the wrong thing to me, which inflamed the situation and made me angry. Had he been trained in how to respond, with the type of words and phrases to use, he would not have made such a glaring error. He was a man in his twenties, so the lack of training is not his fault. That responsibility lies with his employer. It is always worth remembering that the human touch is the key element in how your customers rate you and 2021 provides a great opportunity for business to capitalise on the very clear human need that has been identified. Use technology to simplify systems by all means, but always remember the importance of the human touch and train your staff in how to deal with customers carefully and properly.

My poor experience was with Dyson and resulted because the vacuum cleaner ordered did not arrive on the day it should have. Their system broke down, due to demand I expect, but where the problem arose was in the lack of communication to me. If Dyson had told me that the product would not arrive on time, I would have been disappointed, but not dissatisfied, because I would have known there was a delay. The system could have been programmed to send out holding emails and a notice could have been put on their website. Using technology that way will help keep angry customers at bay. The wait time at Dyson to get through to customer service was long, so clearly I was not the only annoyed customer. Communication with customers is so important when there is a problem or when there is going to be a delay in delivering. If you are in that situation, get ahead of it with your customers and let them know in advance. Use the opportunity to turn a problem into a positive customer experience. In Dyson's case you could call them to speak to someone, and they clearly had good email systems set up, so the opportunity to combine technology with human interaction was there but was not taken advantage of. Unfortunately when I got through (twice) they lied to me on both occasions about when I could expect delivery. That is not a good move with customers. Honesty is always the best policy!

My really bad experience was with E.on who give an option to speak to someone but when you choose that option, it does not actually exist. They will only allow you to communicate with them by email or on live chat. E.on used to be a really good, customer friendly organisation so it is a shame that they now don't want to talk to their customers. My issue with E.on has rumbled on since July 2020 and is stll not resolved and it is not helped by the fact that they put their system above their staff. No-one can put a note on the system or over-ride it to stop it causing problems, which in effect means that the computer is now in charge. E.on have caused me months of distress because of their appalling approach to their customers.

Nothing would give me greater satisfaction than to see SME businesses really flourish post Brexit and as we come out of the pandemic and challenge the big companies. But, training your staff is key if your customers are to have a really good experience. As always, we can help you with that training!