The customer experience — can we truly get it right?

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GuestHouse
Tim Piendel, principal of GreatHouse Atlanta, describes his terrible personal customer experience to educate his own employees in a guest blog posting.
GuestHouse
Tim Piendel, principal of GreatHouse Atlanta, describes his terrible personal customer experience to educate his own employees in a guest blog posting.

I spend some time as a voluntary moderator on the Google AdSense help forums, focusing on publishers who lose their accounts because they fail to observe the program’s many rules and policies, or they have invalid traffic that causes harm to AdWords advertisers. (AdSense is Google’s advertising brokerage system. The search engine giant pays upwards of 70 cents on the dollar for ads that are contextually placed on third-party sites, virtually everywhere in the world.)

One of the biggest complaints of disabled publishers is that Google “has terrible customer service.” When the company turfs accounts, it gives them the silent treatment. There’s no human contact, no way to send an email, just a wall of silence. It’s like talking to the borg. Disabled publishers sometimes get angry, sometimes assert conspiracies that Google has plotted to steal their money, and almost always describe Google’s terrible “customer service”.

As a volunteer with a unique status – I’m the only publisher in the program’s history to survive two “account disabled” emails, to become a forum Top Contributor (moderator), I try to empathize with the publishers’ plights, suggest alternatives, and then remind them that they aren’t customers — they are independent-contractor vendors. They owe Google the customer service.

“Customer service” seems to be taken as a right these days, even when you aren’t a customer! And “Good customer service” is nothing more than a business basic — it is nothing to brag about, announce, shout from the rooftops or describe in any way in your marketing materials. The issue is not whether you say you have good customer service; it is whether you truly deliver a great customer experience, which is so far above-and-beyond the norm that you’ll know you’ve achieved that result when you start hearing back from your clients that you’ve done the “wow” thing.

(I seem to have done that with Google. My AdSense account earns me less than $100 a month, but I still spend a few hours a week as a volunteer. A few years ago, I earned the Top Contributor designation, one of about 500 around the world in all of Google’s help forums. Now Google flies me to California every second year for an all-expenses paid summit. In this case, it seems Google has a rather powerful supplier/vendor and volunteer recognition program.)

Here’s another example of customer service, done wrong, yet useful for learning lessons.

Contractor Tim Piendel, principal of GreatHouse Atlanta, a full service design/build remodeling firm serving north metro Atlanta, wrote a guest post in Shawn McCcadden’s design-builder for renovators blog, describing a bad customer experience for a painting job at his home.

He turned it into an educational email for his employees:

ALL GreatHouse Employees and Subcontractors:

I just wanted to share with you an experience I recently had with a contractor since I don’t want this happening with our jobs. It is my intention to stay successfully in business and I want you to be part of that success.

Here’s the story…

Just recently I had some painting work done on my home. There were two parts to the project, a preparation and a completion. The contractor came to my home and performed the first part of the project but did a poor job. I pointed it out and gave the person a chance to fix it but I was given excuses. I talked it over with my wife and we fixed part of the project ourselves and called the contractor back to fix the issue. They came back and saw what a corrected preparation should be like but offered no apologies, just excuses. They finished the preparation fine after that, but I, as a homeowner had to initiate it. 

The next step was to complete the project. This was an exterior project so it was expected they would not be here when the rain had made completing the project impractical. However, there was no call. Kind of obvious, but still, a courtesy call is always welcome. The next day came and was ideal for completing the work. However, the contractor was a no show and a no call. This is unacceptable. Now, with rain coming in again, the project was delayed another week. At this point, as a homeowner, I am frustrated, mad, and have lost confidence in the contractor. This all could have been remedied with a simple communication. 

Lessons learned…

1. NO MATTER WHAT THE JOB, DO IT RIGHT! Shoddy workmanship always cost you more in the long run. Return trips always cost more in dollars and confidence.

2. DON’T MAKE EXCUSES. APOLOGIZE AND MOVE ON! A customer does not want to hear excuses; they just want honesty and closure. Besides, you’ll dig yourself a deeper hole.

3. YOU CANNOT OVER COMMUNICATE!!!!!! Call, text, email…whatever is appropriate, but do so promptly and often.

4. AGAIN, YOU CANNOT OVER COMMUNICATE!!!!! When you don’t call to say where you are and they are expecting you, they are just sitting there boiling and waiting to pounce on you and make your job harder and unpleasant.

You may think that your job is only to complete your service or product but that is only part of it. We are PRIMARILY in the customer service business. We have fabulous clients! By the nature of our business, we are invited into people’s homes and we must respect their rules and timing. We must earn and keep their trust. They must have CONFIDENCE that we will complete the project correctly, on time and on budget. That’s what we do.

Thank you for your time. As always, feel free to contact me with any question or comments. I want all of us to be successful. I am willing to help anyone that needs help.

‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.’ – Aristotle

 Thanks,

Tim Piendel

Now, yes, these are excellent points. However, remember your customers don’t remember what you say; they remember what you do. They expect “good customer service” as a  basic right, not something special. You’ll get it right when you remember that fact — and, if you want to take things a step further — deliver the “great customer service” experience to your suppliers. They’ll be shocked, perhaps, but you may find the principle of reciprocation applies even more effectively when you extend recognition where it is least expected.

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