Thu | Mar 4, 2021

Some lessons in customer services

Published:Sunday | December 27, 2020 | 12:07 AM

Recently, I accepted an invitation for a mani/pedi day with one of my friends. Unfortunately, what was intended to be a nice afternoon of pampering became a rushed, unpleasant and eventually hostile experience that regrettably occurs too often in this country. The culture of poor service is oftentimes perpetuated by the owner themselves, which was the case at this nail salon.

After enduring hostility, rudeness and impatience I was subsequently denied the completion of my service because I, the paying customer, dared to complain on their social media page.

Here is some advice for a small business trying to survive in a competitive industry during COVID 19. Invest in customer service training and lead by example to avoid your employees mirroring the dreadful practice of chasing away your customers. Two important concepts to consider: manage customer complaints and service recovery.

To maintain competitive advantage requires consistent quality service. It is an attainable benchmark, especially when our national service standard is often below par.

Managing customer complaints

1. Put your emotions aside: In the face of a challenging service experience it is easy to be reactive and internalise a complaint as an attack. What is important to learn here is the meaning of complaints. Believe or not, the reason people complain is because they are interested in salvaging the relationship. It is evident from the wealth of research in consumer behaviour that a customer who has been adequately remunerated is more likely to be among the most loyal to your establishment. So, if a customer has put in the effort to complain, don’t waste this opportunity.

2. Ask questions and acknowledge customer perspective: It is wise to ask the customer directly to get their perspective and provide some kind of reconciliation.

3. Offer an apology: When regret is expressed for the breakdown in a relationship it demonstrates humanity. It disarms the situation and makes the customer feel heard and supported instead of threatened by a confrontational nemesis.

4. Provide resolutions: Consumers are reasonable, rational beings who are flexible and negotiable. When it comes to resolving an issue, acting with a sense of urgency is critical.

5. Be proactive: This may be the most challenging step in managing customer complaints because it requires reflection. In order to minimise recurrences, it is important to assess an outcome and formulate a standard going forward.

Service recovery

Not every customer is looking for a freebie and service recovery is not required to be delivered in that form. Any chance to redeem yourself, therefore, has the potential to turn a bad situation into a rewarding one, not just informally but financially as well. Qualtrics XM Institute shows substantial evidence that 73% of companies with above-average customer experience perform better financially than their competitors. In other words, customers are willing to pay for better experiences. It also means that customers expect superior service for premium products. If you have aligned your business with extravagance, the service you provide must be consistent with that, otherwise your company will suffer greatly and consumers will still have options. Never underestimate the power of testimonials. The impact a satisfied customer has shares equal tenacity with dissatisfied ones. The outcome of complaints can prove beneficial to you if you can successfully master service recovery. Not everyone will believe an existing customer is valuable until perhaps considering the fact that it is five times more costly to attract new customers than it is to maintain existing ones.

If customers choose to patronise your business, don’t allow then to leave without intentions of returning. I don’t anticipate majority of small businesses being able to capitalise on the benefit of optimal compensation. The above recommendations on managing complaints and service quality could be of great value.

A concerned citizen