Offering great customer serviceYears ago, I led a customer service team for a well-known telecommunications company in the UK.

Despite its size, one thing that was always drummed into us was that no matter what the problem, have empathy with the customer and acknowledge that any verbal attacks are aimed at the company, not us.

It did the trick.

We knew that our company wasn’t perfect – which one is? We also knew that some of our company’s practices wouldn’t go over well with our customers, and that would lead to unhappy customers calling in to complain.

Though they sometimes got vociferous in their argument, we would always listen, offer empathy and look for a way that we could both work together to resolve the issue.

Again, it worked. At the end of the call, the customer would apologize and say they were really sorry that they came over as argumentative – they were just frustrated and felt as if they had no-one to talk to about it. All they wanted was for someone to listen and show that their problems were being heard.

Even if nothing could be done about them, just knowing someone cared made a huge difference.

So when did we stop listening?

I come across businesses every day that seem to have forgotten what customer service is. Public transport that’s always late with no apology or explanation; banks raising charges on credit cards with little warning and no alternatives; restaurants changing menus without any kind of customer survey (and often losing the best food in the process).

Even social media isn’t immune to this malaise – look at the thousands of unhappy Facebook users when the company changes its front-end without asking users what they thought first? Even worse, when users complain, Facebook pretty much sticks its head in the sand and says, “Take it or leave it.”

What amazes me more about this apathy toward customers is that businesses can’t afford to have this attitude. All around us, businesses are folding, communities are suffering and families struggling to keep their heads above water.

New business will be almost impossible to come across with any great success, which is why it’s more important than ever to look after your existing customers.

Business is tough enough as it is. We all want to attract new clients and build our brand, but we can’t afford to do so at the expense of our existing customers. Along with employees, they’re the soul of any company and the ones that can offer you the best kind of new client attraction – word-of-mouth advertising.

Something for businesses to keep in mind the next time they review their customer service policy.

image: gumption