I’ve had a couple of interesting conversations recently, triggered by a rant by Bill Maher and some less than stellar customer service experiences I’ve had. Brace yourselves for a negative blog post that poses the question, how do you react to poor customer service?
I’d link to a video of Bill’s rant, however it’s a little risqué and I would never want to be accused of insensitivity to the fainter of heart. If you’re curious you can check it out on youtube by searching for “Bill Maher ranking everything”. The gist of his “new rule” is that we are constantly being asked to review businesses and people based upon the customer service they provide and it’s getting out of hand. Sure, I understand how annoying it can be that after every customer service encounter you are asked to fill out a survey or provide a review of the service. Be it your bank, a restaurant, even your trip to the grocery store is often met with “how’d we do”? and a plea from the provider to please provide a positive rating. And if you’ve purchased a car lately, the salesman will hound you endlessly to write a positive review. It’s almost as though their livelihoods are at stake. In some cases, they are. So how do you react to poor customer service? Do you write a bad review? Do you speak to a manager? Or do you assume that individual is having a bad day and leave it alone?
In the past two weeks I’ve been the victim of too many incidents of poor customer service. In particular, returning phone calls or emails just seems beyond the scope of what many businesses care to do. Even when I am anxious to PAY THEM FOR A SERVICE!!!! This boggles the mind. Businesses are there to do two things: provide a product or service and make money. Neither of these things can happen if they are not responding to potential customers. Canceling appointments and not rescheduling, not taking extra steps to solve a problem, expecting customers to know their business rather than explaining things; these are a few more examples of the frustrations I think many of us face. And it’s a range of companies, from small independent businesses all the way up to Apple, whose customer service has declined considerably, in my experience, over the past couple of years.
What is the appropriate way to react to poor customer service? A family member told me that she never calls bad service out because she feels badly about getting an individual “in trouble”. That’s likely a very common reaction. Unfortunately, a lack of productive feedback necessarily means that customer service from that business will either remain poor and may well get worse! How does that help a business? I have friends who review everything from the restaurants they patronize to the schools their kids go to, and the concerts they attend! Good or bad, their opinion WILL BE KNOWN! I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a second job! My schedule certainly couldn’t accommodate that. Some customers will discreetly speak to a manager when they receive poor service. I once knew a family that would regularly pull a hair out of their daughters head, place it on the plate of food served at a restaurant, then complain to the manager about a hair in the food so that their meal would be either comped or discounted. Sleep at night? not so much for me.
As a service provider who relies primarily on referrals from satisfied customers, reviews are important to me and I’ve been fortunate to have clients who are happy to write a review. I’m fortunate (and deserving I must say) to have received reviews that reflect excellence in service. However if there was ever something that I or my team could do better, I would want to know and I’d want to know right away. Based on my understanding of how feedback, negative or positive, can improve a business, here’s my recommendation regarding how to react to poor customer service:
- address the issue as soon as you become aware of a problem with the individual involved.
- if you can’t make progress with the “offender”, escalate it to management.
- should you not receive satisfaction regarding the situation, write a review providing “just the facts”.
- if you just can’t get an appropriate response from a business, stop utilizing their services.
- if you receive excellent customer service, write a review and share your great experience with others. That business has earned it!
- We can’t always avoid the frustrations of poor customer service, however being prepared to deal with it calmly and appropriately can help get you through it without needing to rant like Bill Maher.