Customer Service can transform or destroy your company

How much does customer service matter today? It’s everything. Whether you are on the receiving or giving end, customer service makes every experience and interaction between business and customer either a winning one, or one that leaves a bitter opinion in your mind about the organization.

Case in point: After scouring the Internet for the perfect baby bedding for my soon-to-be-born son, I finally found a company that didn’t have this particular set on backorder and it would arrive in a week– perfect timing to begin setting up the nursery.

The same afternoon that I placed an order, I received an e-mail from one of the customer service reps explaining that the shipment was actually on backorder (just like everyone else I’d seen online!? Is everyone buying this product?) – and to plan on three weeks for the order to arrive.

At this point I’m irked that they didn’t just post on their website that the product was on backorder because I only ordered from them because they said it was available. Whatever. Three weeks – I can handle, this baby isn’t coming for a few months yet.

Fast forward four weeks to yesterday. No baby bedding and no further contact regarding when it is to be shipped. The not-so-helpful status order link included with my order remains blank with no shipping estimates or even a status.

Now I’m not a confrontational person – not even slightly. I refused to place to-go orders in high school for the family because I didn’t want to talk to someone on the phone – just ask my parents. They’re still rolling their eyes at this. But you don’t mess with a pregnant woman during the height of summer.

So as I look up the customer service number for this company, I’m all worked up just thinking about how this order is still not here. For all I know, I could have been duped and they charged my credit card but aren’t legitimate. Right? Who hasn’t thought of things like this when they’re having issues with online purchases?

When the customer service rep comes on the phone, she is very pleasant. I explain in a calm voice why I’m calling – although from the way I described my problem, I left little doubt that I was a very unhappy customer. With only a slight pause, she began by apologizing for the delay and that I hadn’t heard anything else from the company on my order. She then went on to say, “Let me call the manufacturer directly and see when they are shipping it and why it’s taking so long. Can I put you on hold for a few minutes?”

Slightly mollified that I would at least be getting answers, I waited while I was transferred to the land of terrible hold-music. Just a few minutes later, she came back on and said, “OK. The manufacturer said they are shipping the orders out for this product directly from their warehouse by the last two weeks of August.”

She said the manufacturer had a huge surge of orders for this bedding after a special online promo was run – throwing all their ordering numbers off – which, in my opinion, should have been planned for, but oh well.

She asked if there was anything else she could help me with and we ended the call.

I entered the phone call with the intention of canceling my order and looking elsewhere online again because I didn’t trust the company. While I am still not thrilled that it will be the end of August before I should receive my order, because of my interaction with her yesterday, I can be OK with the circumstances and thankful that she was so pleasant to work with and that she gave me the answers I needed immediately.

Her customer service skills won me back over from being an irate customer to one that can handle that the circumstances are out of her and my control. Now granted, my experience wasn’t over-the-top amazing customer service like many of us come to expect after dealing with customer service behemoths like Amazon.com and Zappos.com – but she was pleasant, quick, friendly and informative – all characteristics you want when dealing with a customer service issue.

Customers are fickle. I understand this. I am one. We expect the world and want it now with a slice of cheesecake to go along with it. As a business, you may not be able to promise and deliver on the moon – but you can still aim high and deliver the best customer service possible – one that will still make customers smile and happy they chose to do business with you.

What has your best customer experience been like? How did it change your opinion of the company you were working with? What customer service qualities are you looking for in a business?

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