Friday, May 07, 2010

Customer service: the difference is persistence

When you have an issue that needs resolving, do you perform the due diligence required to reach the right person, with the right information, and within the right time?  It's usually pretty easy to find customer service contact information on a company's website, but the key ingredient to making it happen is being persistent.  Sometimes it takes a few "touches" to make it happen. 

Customer service contact information serves two purposes: one, to make the customer feel like they have a voice; but two, as a mechanism for mitigating customer concerns without actually doing anything.  Often, it comes down to a case of chicken:  who is going to get out of the way first?  Think in the past when you have called customer service only to be passed back and forth between one party to the next.  Each company contact did their "job" by addressing the customer's concerns, but by passing it on to someone else without doing anything.  The hope: the customer just gives up.

A recent example to illustrate my point.  With the Megabus experience a month or so ago, the first letter fell on deaf ears.  The second, a phone call, referred me to an email address to contact.  The third, was a Twitter address, which basically said to write the company an email.  Finally, an email back from the company came, but there's no telling if they would have contacted me back ever if I hadn't reached out that many times.  Understanding that the time invested isn't always worth the outcome, but once the initial letter is drafted, it's very easy to send a hard copy, fax, and email to cover your bases.  If you have a chance phone conversation with a responsible party, keep your letter handy to recite your concerns.

And, increasingly, as discussed before, companies have live customer service chat online.  I have used this with hotels in particular and it is very effective.  Perhaps since it's easier for the outsourced customer service rep to understand what you are talking about when it is written instead of spoken.  Perhaps it's cheaper because the rep might be working from home.

Last piece of advice, address your concerns in a timely fashion, immediately if possible.  If you have a laptop handy, start drafting your letter as the incident is occurring in order to capture as many details as possible.  Depending on how egregious your concerns are, there's a relatively short window, maybe a month tops, in which they remain relevant.  You don't want to miss out on an opportunity for restitution.