customer service

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The whole point of having customer service, as the term implies, is to offer services to your customers. It really makes no sense to have a customer service hotline for the purposes of pissing people off. This applies universally, be it phone calls, emails, Tweets, or Facebook posts, really any digital interface that passes for human interaction nowadays. Companies with a modicum of common sense understand that you want customers to be satisfied; that return customers make up a big part of sales and word-of-mouth is the best form of advertising.

Responding to customers promptly and constructively is the only kind of response you want going out. If not, better not to respond at all – I’m not kidding. I’ve encountered companies where under the “contact us” page of the website, it only had a snail mail address. Not even a fax number.

There are some clear Dos and Don’ts in the world of customer service. Mostly Don’ts. Don’t be like this not-to-be-named discount voucher website company (“DumbCo”):

DumbCo Voucher – The Name Says It All

Let’s say you buy one of those cheapskate holiday “savings” packages (the “Voucher”) for a hotel stay in Bintan. You call the hotel, they say the dates you wanted are full, that’s fine because it is after all a savings package so some flexibility is to be expected. You ask when the next available room dates are, turns out, it’s after the expiry of the Voucher. Naturally, the Voucher is useless if the hotel has no available dates and you explain that to the hotel. The hotel apologizes profusely for the overbooking and offers to book you in another nearby hotel but they cannot offer a refund as the money is paid to DumbCo.

Pro-tip: I’d say the hotel did great here. It is partly their fault – they overbooked – but they ate their humble pie and came forth with constructive solutions rather than being on the defensive.

DumbCo Service – Or Lack Thereof

So next you call DumbCo’s customer service hotline asking if they can do anything to help. Big mistake. Little did you know, hotlines are not there to help, they are there to make you give up. Sarcastic attitude aside, the phone operator starts telling you off for not checking with the hotel before you bought the Voucher. You keep your cool, you still need a resolution, so you ask if anything can be arranged, perhaps an extension, perhaps a refund. The operator laughs a cold laugh and condescendingly says, “That’s not happening. DumbCo policy”. Okay, perhaps it is not within the operator’s authority to have brains, so you ask to speak to the manager and the operator cheerily agrees.

Pro-tip: Do not allow rude phone operators to be under your employ. They are practically a smear campaign. This could have arisen from a lack of training, or worse still, a bad attitude that trickled down from management.

DumbCo Management – I Use the Term “Manage” Liberally

Great, you think perhaps now you can resolve this. Think again. While waiting, you hear the phone operator bitch about you to the manager. The manager picks up the phone and says you are not getting a refund. You ask him to be more helpful and the manager says you should have helped yourself by being smart enough to book with the hotel before buying from them. What is more, the manager warns you that he has listened to a playback of the conversation between the phone operator and yourself and accuses you of being unreasonable and demanding. The manager tells you not to call them again and hangs up.

Pro-tip: This is a big no no. Why are you narrating to the customer how his or her character flaws led to this disastrous situation? Do not shift the blame. A war with a customer hurts you no matter who wins.

DumbCo Social Media – Sometimes a Quick Response Time Isn’t a Good Thing

Wow that got ridiculous real fast. You suspect recording phone conversations is usually to monitor service staff, not customers. You suspect the recording is illegal. You suspect the recording does not exist. You decide this is basically a scam. You decide it was just $50 out of your pocket so it is not worth your time. You then decide other people should be warned about this. You post on DumbCo’s Facebook Page, narrating only objective facts. Within ten seconds of your post, it is removed. Fantastic response time.

Pro-tip: Quelling unhappy customers is an important part of customer service. Kind of like subduing an unruly mob. There are unreasonable consumers out there who will walk all over you if you let them. Crush their spirit with intelligent rhetoric over the phone, then silence their protests with online censorship.

No seriously, do not do that.

It probably makes sense to have people on your headcount under “customer service” that reply to Facebook posts rather than remove them. Although, I guess as far as efficiency goes, removing a post is slightly faster than explaining fraud. Sure, there are unreasonable customers out there, and you’re going to have to roll with the punches. But if you’re going to respond, make it a point to do it fast and make sure your response helps so you nip any aftermath in the bud. If you are going to be defensive and high-handed, better you not respond at all.

The one thing DumbCo did well is they were fast. They were there. When I called, they answered. When I posted on Facebook, they removed it. Full marks for being on the ball, they just have to learn not to punch the ball in the face.