In Summary
  • Do not make promises you know you will not keep.

  • If you actually are delayed, do not hide.

  • Do not pass blame.

  • At the end, when hopefully all is well and everything finally resolved, do not send an impersonal boilerplate message saying how much you value your customers.

Another week, another set of bad customer experiences. That’s how it goes for most of us.

I feel strongly about this, as regular readers know. A decade ago I wrote a book about customer care. Since then I have covered different aspects of handling customers repeatedly on this page. I even made a video about it.

To little avail, it sometimes feels. There are organisations and individuals who obstinately and obtusely refuse to do this customer thing better. It’s completely in their own interests to do so. But no. They will continue to wallow in mediocrity.

CASE STUDY

On a single day recently I encountered so much of this mediocrity that I decided to sit my own staff down and make a case study of that day – to show them that the things being done to us are exactly the things we must never do to our clients. Rather than just fulminate, I thought it would be better to learn lessons and teach them. So we’ll tell you too. Here are the commonplace blunders made in customer care – the ones you must steer clear of.

First: don’t make promises you know you won’t keep. Don’t swear on your mother that your team will be there first thing tomorrow morning when you know very well they probably won’t be. Be honest. Lying only causes worse repercussions later. Have the difficult conversation up-front. If you can’t do things that quickly, say so. Most clients will respect that honesty. They will certainly respect it more than false optimism followed by no-shows.

Next: if you actually are delayed, don’t hide. Don’t wait for your clients to notice – alert them yourself. Don’t evade calls. Don’t hope the furore will die down later – it won’t. Take charge of the situation. Communicate and fix the problem. Keep talking. Don’t reappear sheepishly later – be visible and be honest throughout.

Third: don’t pass the blame. Don’t say it isn’t you, that it’s a different part of the organisation at fault. Don’t say people are in a meeting so you can’t reach them. Don’t say the system is down. Don’t blame Kenya Power or Nairobi County or foreign powers. Your client is not interested. Take responsibility and work to sort things out.

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