In this era of record unemployment and companies downsizing, one would think that customer service would be a top priority. And customer service, I think, starts even before a company gains (earns?) a customer. Many corporations spend a ton of money on advertising to draw customers to them – take Yellow pages advertisements, for example – and so when a customer responds to these ads, makes a phone call, and doesn’t receive a call back within a reasonable amount of time – or at all – that company has totally wasted its money.
Last summer, for instance, we were looking for wood chips to use as walkway mulch around garden beds. I’d called one tree service and trimming company three times to ask the cost of this by-product of their main business and never received a phone call back. I called another one twice. Same thing. I finally got a real person to answer on a call to a third company and learned that a dump truck load of wood chips would cost me “about several hundred dollars.” Now, essentially, this product is a by-product of what these companies do – trim branches or cut down unwanted trees, and then chip the smaller branches. The wood chips are always mixed in with leaf debris, and often other trash, and aren’t the top quality product for mulch. In short, it’s waste. Still, it works for my needs – or would work if it were a reasonably-priced product.
A while back, I did an article on branding. Before interviewing a graphics design expert for this article, I’d always thought that branding dealt with logos, colors, a strong message and presence, and a consistency in presenting this message. Those issues, of course, are elements of branding, but what struck me was this designer’s comment that “even how your receptionist answers the phone is an integral part of your branding.” So, I can’t help but think that having an insipid message on a message machine starts out as poor branding and communication with customers. Still, in a stretch, I guess I can understand how a small organization running on a shoestring budget would make ends meet by eliminating the overhead of a receptionist and using a message machine or voice mail. What I can’t understand, though, is an uninspired message (Make it creative and reflective of your company, professional or funny, or memorable in some way) and then, not returning the phone calls. On one level, it’s just common courtesy to return a phone call (it is, isn’t it?) even if just to tell me you can’t provide the product for my needs. And, you sure don’t need an MBA to know that it’s just good business.
I had a positive note of really great customer service this past weekend. I’d purchased some items at one of the Albertsons’ stores in Billings, and the check-out process ended the normally positive shopping experience at any Albertsons on ….. a sour note. I don’t usually fill out surveys, but I didn’t want this type of negativity to downgrade the shopping experience for other customers, so I went on-line and completed the survey that was suggested at the bottom of the receipt. I didn’t expect anything in response – just wanted to let the company know of the less-than-glowing experience – but within an hour (on a Sunday night!), I received a personal email from the store manager, thanking me for my input, apologizing for the poor experience, and promising to correct it. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ll bet that if I were to call Albertsons, a real person would answer the phone …. or I’d at least get a callback within a reasonable time.
So, Barbara, how is customer service in Mexico? With a totally different culture, I imagine it’s not what we would expect here? Or maybe it’s better?? Let us know, in a future post, what it’s like to go shopping in Mexico.