Why Big Business Has Customer Service All Wrong (and how small businesses can take advantage of it)

I’m a stickler about customer service.  I could blame it on being a waitress in my teens, but it’s more likely because I was taught that we should always treat people the way we ourselves would like to be treated. I have experience serving and helping others, so when it comes time for me to be the customer I have high expectations.

This morning I read Seth Godin’s latest blog post entitled, Please Go Away in which he talks about the way most big businesses deal with customer service.  He talks about how for the most part, customer service departments are rewarded for frustrating customers to the point that they give up on getting satisfaction for their complaints.  I know from talking to friends who have worked in call centers that the higher the number of calls they take a day the more praise they receive.  Not one of those friends ever mentioned getting praised or receiving bonuses for helping a customer find satisfaction.

As the blog post points out, if we were doing business with a company who made sure that anytime we contacted the customer service department we felt satisfied and happy, we’d be extremely loyal to that company.

I know this is true from personal experience.  I’ve been with Verizon as my cell phone carrier for the past 11 years, even though other companies have offered me everything from a free phone to unlimited minutes over the years. But because every time I have contacted Verizon’s customer service department they’ve made sure I was happy with the outcome, I’ve never once considered leaving them. I realize not everyone has had this same experience with Verizon, but this isn’t about anyone else. This is about me, my perception of Verizon, and the way I’ve been treated.  Since it’s all been good to date, I wouldn’t dream of testing my luck with another carrier.  That said, if tomorrow I had a bad customer service experience with them that loyalty just might be swept away by dissatisfaction.

Does that make me fickle? Maybe, but it also makes me normal and like most everyone else.  One bad experience can color over ten years of good ones in a split second.

So why don’t most big businesses get the message? In fact, why do some who had gotten it right in the past, abandon it with the cry that it was too expensive, too difficult, and/or too time consuming to continue to offer stellar customer experiences? I believe it’s because they ultimately fail to recognize what Seth Godin pointed out in his blog post.  That we are worth a lot more money as loyal customers than the few extra bucks an hour they may have to pay for individualized customer service.

As small businesses, we should be doing what big business seems to refuse to. Listen to your clients.  Don’t just listen, really hear what they are saying. Providing stellar customer service experiences will set your business apart and build a loyalty among your clients. That loyalty will result in them sharing their great experiences and referring your business to others.

Learn from the mistakes big business is making outsourcing their customer service departments to other countries and placing such a low importance on customer experience. Pay attention to the needs of your clients and earn their loyalty.