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Don’t just deliver fast customer service – be effective

With recent studies suggesting that 21% of customer complaints never receive a response at all, it’s understandable that speedy customer service representatives feel they’re doing a great job. The clock starts ticking as soon as a complaint comes in. But there is such a thing as being too fast. Sometimes it’s worth making the effort to stop and think before pressing ‘send’ on that reply.

While companies hopefully don’t – and should never try to – mess up deliberately, the fact remains that they sometimes get things wrong. And when that happens, they have a great opportunity to have a personal interaction with someone who has shown an interest in their brand. Seriously, this is marketing gold.

An apology and a refund? Not necessarily the best customer service

Take this experience I had last week. I bought a tin of a luxury hot chocolate product, with little chocolate figurines that melt into the drink as you stir it in. Problem was: there were no figurines. I made the drink anyway, and it was pretty uninspiring, considering the most important ingredient was missing. I paid a lot of money for a rather boring tin of hot chocolate mix! So I wrote to the manufacturer to explain what had happened and ask if they could help. I received a reply just ten minutes after the start of the next business day – they weren’t wasting any time. I got an apology, and a refund.

Cool, right? Not really. This was an enormous missed opportunity. I reached out to these guys, expressing an interest in trying their product, having bought it already. Then when the product turned out to be faulty, I was interested enough to follow through with the company. They ‘made it right’ – I’m no longer out of pocket and I suppose that from the company’s point of view, they’ve done the right thing.

But I still, despite all my interest, haven’t tried their product (only a faulty and not very nice version). I now have two choices: I can purchase it again, or I can forget about it. And the sad fact is, I’m not going to purchase it again. Despite the company’s assurances that I was just unlucky and there were no problems with the rest of the batch my purchase came from (assuming that they really did test them at lightning speed before emailing me that morning), I’m hesitant to try my luck again. Apart from anything else, if I end up with another figurine-free tin they’re probably not going to believe me if I complain, right? And my experience of their product so far is that 100% of the time I have tried it, it’s been faulty.

Effective customer service to win over a customer for life

For the cost of a sample sachet (or even a whole tin, if they had really wanted to wow me) plus postage, the hot chocolate company could have given me the opportunity to try the product without taking any further risks. If I’d liked it – and it gets fabulous reviews, I have to say – their customer service would have won over a customer for life. But they just let the opportunity go. Better not tell their marketing team.

Sure, it’s important to send speedy responses to customer queries. It’s a good way to demonstrate that your customers are important to you. In any case, younger generations have grown up with instant everything in many arenas of their lives, so you can’t leave them waiting too long. But don’t mistake fast service for effective service. Effective service does two things: it makes things right for the customer, and it furthers the interests of your business by aiming to retain the customer. And who knows, you might even manage to turn them into a brand ambassador, too.