The relationship between a company and its customers is not all that different than the relationship between a husband and wife. Every couple knows that there are great times and times that you may not be seeing eye-to-eye. There are also times when you are moving from one state to another, also called “making up.”
The Ups and Down of the Customer Experience
I want to share an experience that illustrates the up and down nature of customer relationships. Several weeks ago, I received an unsolicited call from a representative of Verizon. He was the sales person from whom I had purchased my air-card for cellular data access almost 18 months earlier. He mentioned they were replacing some of the older equipment that had experienced problems. The sales person assured me that there would be no additional cost and it would not extend my contract.
I replied: “Sure. Go ahead and send it to me.” The air-card arrived later that week. I waited a few days and then connected it to my laptop to see how it would work. I noticed that it connected with a new phone number. Apparently, this sales person was sorely mistaken.
Suspecting that this would result in a separate bill, I picked up the phone and called Verizon and explained the situation. The Verizon call center agent was very pleasant and said she would take care of the situation by closing this number and moving the new device to my original account.
The next weekend I was on a trip. I connected my new air-card, only to have it fail while making a connection. I called the technical support center for Verizon and explained the situation. The previous call center agent had made a mistake with the cards and had turned the new card off instead of transferring it to my old number.
The initial call center support person was very understanding and did everything within her level of skill to resolve the problem. After 30 minutes, she asked if she could put me on hold and get a senior technical support person on the phone. She stayed on the phone, explained the situation and completed a proper handoff. The technical resource tried several possible solutions without success. I explained how important it was for me to have access, and eventually he was able to re-activate my original card and account. I was back up and running!
Two weeks later, I received a “Welcome Packet” from Verizon thanking me for opening a new account and letting me know my new expiration date would be two years in the future. I called again and talked to a nice team member who assured me that this was not the case and the account had been closed. Two weeks later, I received my “new” Verizon bill that indicated I was being charged over $200 for an “early termination” fee.
I picked up the phone again and after waiting a couple of minutes, a very polite Verizon employee answered the phone. I explained the situation and within two minutes, she had issued the credit and apologized for the entire situation. Within five minutes I received an email from the Verizon system confirming the credit and showing the correct outstanding balance for my original air-card.
Four Categories of Customer Service Roles
I tell you this story to illustrate what is common in almost every company. Great customer service requires every team member to do their part. Employees in any organization will fall into one of four categories:
- They understand the importance of providing great customer service and also possess the skills and support to do so.
- They understand the importance, but lack the training, systems, processes or skills to provide great customer service.
- They don’t believe that customer service is important, and therefore don’t stand a chance at delivering excellent service.
- They lack the personal integrity to consistently do the right thing, resulting in disappointed customers.
There were seven points of contact with a Verizon employee during this air-card saga. One lacked integrity, two or three had great intentions but lacked the skill or support system, and three delivered great service.
I believe Verizon actually has one of the better reputations for customer service from among their peers in the industry. I am sure they have a good training program and expect only the best out of their employees, yet less than half of them were able to meet my expectations.
Every organization’s goal should be to have far more positive experiences than negative, but even service recovery situations can earn big points in the constant up and down relationship between a company and its customers. Obviously, we should all want our customer service interactions to fall into the first category so our customers feel cared for and loyal to our brand.