Customer Service Needs Tough Love

Good customer service grows sales.

Customer Service is one of the most important functions in any company. That is where you get the reality check on how good the products and services your company provides really are. That’s the central theme of an article in the April Newsletter from FreePint. If you don’t read the FreePint monthly newsletter, I would highly recommend it. This article is entitled, “Tough Love: Excelling at Customer Service Is Not Just One Big Happy-Clappy Hugfest“, and it’s written by Robbie Frazer of Prenax.

It’s an excellent read, but a short quote will give you one of the themes:

Customer service was all about being warm and fuzzy, peopled by friendly types who wore distressed jeans at client meetings and drank carrot juice for breakfast.

That’s the storybook idea of customer service, and it doesn’t work. Sometimes, treating your customers right hurts.

My point is that there are rock-solid reasons why a company should champion its people, really care about its customers and create a culture where customer service is central to everything. And those reasons are not all joss sticks and dungarees, but hard business motives that sometimes need very tough decisions to be made: to create this service culture where people take pride in their customer relations and generally seem to be enjoying work takes some effort.

Frazer also gets into the topic of the oh-so common tendency of trying to cut costs on customer service. That reminded me of what the old farmer said about his mule. “I was teaching my mule to live on less and less food. He’d just about learned the trick when he upped and died.

In this Internet age, the customer is even more in control than ever. Some companies realize that and are giving better service. It’s a way of developing a competitive advantage since the majority of companies are into the cost-cutting mode. Surprisingly some of the worst at providing customer service are the telephone companies. Just think of your own experience. Having to key in your account number and then repeat it to a human agent is all too common. They should be experts in handling voice communications.

Luckily help is now available. Intelligent Voice Response (IVR) from companies like Crimsonet can handle your call as well as the best-trained customer service representative. As it happens, it’s cheaper as well but the main driver will certainly be the improved customer service that results. It’s so much better than the (un)Intelligent Voice Response that some people encounter.

28 thoughts on “Customer Service Needs Tough Love”

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  3. It will amaze me till I die… That is the sad state of customer service. I do not want to talk with a machine or someone from India name Bob… When I call I expect results.. When I get poor CS… Then it becomes the last time that I do business with that company again… I own several businesses and I rely on the web for them all. I am small enough that I answer everything in person. I refuse to use auto responders. I often hear”I can’t believe that you got back to me so soon… And I’m thinking that taking 4-8 hours is too long. Wow..

  4. Barry, I tagged you on My Life Is Murphy’s Law…Technorati Fav tag, if you don’t want to do it, no biggie. Just let me know and I’ll take you out of it.

  5. Oh I know what you mean about the irritation of keying in a long account number, then having to repeat the same darn number to a person a few moments later. Irritating. Real customer service died quite a few years ago, and with each passing year of bad customer service, those who remember the look, feel, and sound of real customer service will not be around to describe it. So the downward spiral continues.

  6. Great point. Poor customer service is the easiest way to devalue the brand that so many companies spend billions on creating. Why treat the face/voice of your expensive brand like they’re not valuable?

    99 times out of 100 the first person a customer encounters in any business is the lowest paid.

  7. Loved the article. What I hate most is when you get a Voice recording and answer the 10 questions they have (name, address, phone, account #) and then the human CSR comes on and asks the EXACT same questions you just spent 10 minutes answering to the recorder!

  8. I so agree with Bonus Code King over here. It’s so freakin annoying to type through 100 different numbers and when you finally get in touch with the support, they ask the same again..

  9. i was in customer service at target but the problem is that u get tired and get cranky and for a good customer service u need to kinda understand customer’s perspective. and help them no matter what.. if you are happy in wt ev u r doing than u ll be fine.

    just a advice ..

    i quit the job btw … lol

  10. Customer service is terrible nowadays as opposed to back in the day when my parents were teenagers. They tell me that people were actually nice and helpful then as opposed to now. I think people just don’t care any more.

  11. i agree with you tattoo… i think people are just getting customer service jobs for the money … they don’t really enjoy doing it. it should be the job of a person who enjoys doing customer service and loves talking to people. now a days i see people just standing around with sad faces and fake smiles

  12. Although, intelligent voice response (IVR) is a way to deliver better customer service at lower costs, i think it down right sucks! I hate talking to a machine! Ever try calling Free Information- 411? it takes an hour for the machine to understand one word! I also do not want to talk with someone from India, who barely speaks English.

    True customer service is impossible to find and i have often found it is our culture and society that is to blame.

  13. The customer service in my acountry is awful. People that work in shops are rude and unwelcome. I hope its not like that where you live.

  14. Agreed to an extent. Tough love is fine to get the problem solved, but outright rudeness is definitely wrong. Striking that balance is what you want, but that isn’t easy.

  15. I wouldn’t dare to say customer service is about being polite or about “love”, customer service is about giving the right answer at the right moment is about offering a great purchase experience without delays or mistakes, is about being able to guarantee your product for life, is about an anticipation of customers needs, being treated nice getting a poorly service is what i hate the most.

  16. Enjoyed the article. It’s amazing what customer service has turned into. I have not met 1 single customer who has had a pleasant experience with IVR. So why do companies continue to do it?

  17. Customer service can make or break any business. It can be the deciding factor on repeat business. Advertising brings the customer in but service brings them back.

  18. Most of the companies continue to focus on their product and tend to give less importance to customer service and this is where they make the mistake. No matter how good your product is just dont forget to make your customer service even better. This would create the difference between you and your competitor

  19. I’m agree with Andre and Bonus Code King, it’s very annoying that we must repeat again and again to tell CS about my Name, Address, Phone Number, Social Security Number. There’s a time when i call them with my anger..fu..fu..fu.. but amazing that they kept in their beautiful voice and calm.

  20. @ Previous poster:

    “Intelligent Voice Response (IVR) is one way to deliver better customer service at lower costs.”

    IVR Is one of the things that drives me nuts when I contact customer service. The “Intelligent” part of it doesnt seem to work, and people get more and more frustraded when they are all ready upset and can’t connect to a real person to help them.

    Well trained customer service people, REAL PEOPLE, are what business need and make the customer feel more comfortable. IVR is just a cheap way out..

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