What can be learned from a negative customer service experience…

A little while back, the Internet at my family’s house began to not work properly. We immediately called up our service provider and they offered to send us a replacement modem, which they believed would solve the issue. While it took a couple of days to arrive by mail, once it was set up, we were able to properly connect to the Internet once more. Fast forward a couple weeks, the Internet connection started going spotty again, eventually leading to no connection what so ever. From here, things quickly went downhill.

I was out of the house for the first hour of my father’s conversation with our service provider’s customer service department, I was told he went through 3 people by the time I got back home. While the reps were obviously trying to find someone to help with our particular situation, you can’t let your customers wait around for over an hour for you to find the right person to help. The woman my father eventually ended up with kept asking him to try things with the modem he had already done; if the customer has already tried something and it’s not solving the problem, telling them to do it again will not solve things and agitates an already upset customer.

My father then asked that a representative come down and fix it, to which the customer service agent told him that none are available, since it was past 6pm. To this, my father made two valid points. The first was that when he originally made the call it was well before 6pm and that they could easily pay someone overtime to come out. Second, was if dozens of people in the area had lost their internet service, that the company would send out someone, if not multiple people to fix it. In addition, my mother runs a home business and needed access to the Internet to do her job. To which, the customer rep replied a single customer was not important enough for them to send someone out. When threatened that a better provider would soon be coming into our area and that we would swap over to them, the woman (representing the company) said she didn’t care.

I do have to give the rep some credit though, while she was generally unhelpful and rude, she was completely calm once my father started to get overly aggressive and hostile. So, we didn’t get Internet that night, but they sure as hell sent someone down the next morning. Turns out it wasn’t the modem after all, but instead a physical connector outside not installed properly. The man that worked on the repairs apologized for the inconvenience, the poor customer service and offered two free months of Internet service. While we did take the two free months, they still lost a set of customers in the long run.

So, what’s the take away from this learning experience?

First and foremost, never tell your customer that they are not important to you, ever! While one customer may seem small in the big picture, it’s all of those small, individual customers that make up the whole of your business.

Handle angry customers with care. The best way to handle someone shouting at you is to calmly try to settle them down, generally the only way to do this is to quickly solve the problem they contacted you about. Of course, it helps to get to personally know the customer and genuinely care for their problems.

When a customer threatens to find another service provider, take them seriously. It’s harder to gain new customers than it is to retain them, so when you drive current customers away, they’ll do everything in their power to spite you. They’ll tell those that currently use your service to find a new one and tell those considering you the bad experience they had and keep potential clients away.

Making up for poor customer service is always better than nothing. Sometimes, you can salvage a bad situation by profusely apologizing to your customer and offering them something for their troubles. While this won’t always win them back, it can convince them to stay with you a little longer and not shout to the heavens about their bad experience.