Several days ago I stopped by my favorite hamburger chain for a quick burger. In this particular chain, they give you a number, you take a seat, and they bring your food to you. In the three or four minutes I was waiting on my food, I did a little people watching (no one noteworthy) then, read my receipt. I noticed they had both the manager’s name and a toll free telephone number in case you wanted to make a complaint or provide other feedback. The number was easy to remember since it was composed of both numerals and a word related to the chain’s products. My food came, and as I sat there eating, I watched one of the employees cleaning off a dirty table. To make a short story shorter, let’s just say she committed a serious error while cleaning the table. It made me question whether or not I wanted to return to this store or any of its other locations.
But then I remembered the toll free number. After I finished, I went out to my car and called the customer service number. It was promptly answered by a friendly human being (I don’t remember a voice mail menu) and I asked if the employee’s action was standard procedure for that chain. She immediately started entering information into her database, including the store location, description of the employee, what happened, and the time. During the whole time she was friendly and listened to my questions and comments without appearing to be reading from a script or scrolling through screens.
By the time I finished my conversation with her I had resolved to give this restaurant another chance. I did this because the customer service representative’s attitude toward my complaint gave me confidence that her company cared about me as a customer and valued my feedback.
In the book, First, Break All The Rules…* the authors discuss four levels of customer expectations:
Level 1. Customers expect accuracy. They want the room or car they reserved. Their bank statements should be accurate.
Level 2. Customers expect availability. Your products, stores, services should be available in your customers´ markets and convenient to access.
Level 3. Customers expect partnership. They want you to listen, to be responsive, to be on the same side of the fence as you.
Level 4. Customers want advice. They feel the closest to the organizations that help them learn. If you meet their expectations on partnership and advice, your customers will become your advocates.
Notice level 3. When people have a complaint, you can usually diffuse most of their anger/frustration by demonstrating that you or your employees are listening.
Have you created a simple process to get customer feedback in your organization? Do you have professional and competent staff that are trained to listen?
If you have a process like this, congratulations, it’s saving you customers. If you don’t, create one so that you can stop negative word of mouth in its tracks and retain customers. You’ll also be able to use this process as a means to identify employees who are doing superlative jobs in dealing with customers.
* Pp. 129-132.
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