Modern Customer Service - the Customer Is Never Right

It seems to me that customer service is being largely forgotten these days, intentionally. The internet / e-commerce age has lead to massive efficiencies in distribution, for every business from books to travel.

It actually feels like we’re fostering a spirit of anti-customer service, “the customer is never right”. From Ryanair herding you onto a plane like cattle and bombarding you with adverts, to the complete inability to contact some web properties, businesses are actively trying to provide a bad experience, in search of profits.

Should every business be obliged to forsake profit and provide good customer service? Of course not, but I can’t help look at these businesses and think that I would be prepared to (and do, where I can) pay a 10-20% premium to get good customer service. I can’t be the only person who things that too? What % premium would people be prepared to pay?

I had a particularly un-helpful experience yesterday, hence the rant. I was late for a train, which was itself late and as I got to the platform the doors were closing. The dispatcher said “go to the back” where I saw the guard standing on the platform – I ran over as she got in, “too late” she said. Fortunately her door had a handle, which I opened and let myself in.

I’ve missed my fair share of trains, or planes, boats, buses, etc (in fact, I’m sat on the next train, having missed one on the platform this morning), but what has gone wrong with society that one human being would intentionally try to disrupt another’s day unnecessarily? Perhaps this is a problem bigger than customer service alone…

Good customer service is hard at web-scale, no doubt about it. That Amazon, possibly one of the companies that define web-scale, can do a pretty good job of it suggests it’s possible. If I ever need to return anything, which happens fairly regularly, I log in, open a web chat window and very quickly get return instructions and the item refunded / exchanged. Add in collect+ where they deliver stuff to my nearest corner shop, and I now favour Amazon whenever I can, to the extent where I’ll take a slightly different product to the one I’d intended rather than go elsewhere.

For those of us not servicing tens of millions of customers, start with an email address up that goes to a distribution list amongst your team. If you outgrow that use a tool like Uservoice or getsatisfaction to receive those emails, organise, monitor and report on them. However you handle these messages you have to be responsive to maintain the customers confidence (and have a shot at their wallet).