Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Cornerstone of Customer Service

You can smile over the phone. You can have perfect diction. You can be empathetic and a great listener but at the end of the day, you have to have integrity. By integrity, I mean honesty and follow-through. You need to say what you mean and mean what you say.

Last week, I called to make an arrangement to pay a major bill. I wanted to create a payment via a post-dated check that would clear on June 3rd and not sooner. The woman I spoke to said that I couldn't do that. She suggested that I date the check for May 31. When I explained that the funds would not be there at the time, she told me not to worry because the check would take 3 to 4 days to clear anyway.

Having done this before, I knew for a fact that what she was stating would not be the case. It would take one day, tops, for the check to reach my bank. We debated the point back and forth but I refused to postdate the check for a day when the funds would not be there. Since she was insisting on pressing the issue, I asked her to transfer me to a manager.

After waiting several minutes, the manager picked up and I explained the situation. Yet before I could finish, the original customer service rep chimed in (I didn't realize she had stayed on the line) and denied everything she had said. I was livid.

Keeping my cool, I reiterated our initial conversation. She denied it again. The manager was useless and had nothing to say. I hung up after refusing to deal with anyone who couldn't tell the truth.

The next day I called back and had a completely different experience. I asked to date the check for the 3rd and was told to call back on the 1st because the postdated check had to occur in the same month. The person I spoke to knew the procedure and explained it to me. She didn't encourage me to do something that would have been detrimental to both parties - I would have ended up overdrawn and the company would have ended up with a returned check and returned check fees.

Knowing the procedures is critical to good customer service. I didn't work for this company. I didn't go through their training. The CSRs did. I, as a customer, am relying on them to have the right information or at least know where to find it.

Unethical behavior is never acceptable. Like most customers, I don't expect a CSR to know everything; but I do expect them to know how to find the answers.I do not expect to be mislead. I do not expect to be misinformed. I especially do not expect to be lied to.

The customer service representative was wrong for lying and not explaining the policy accurately. The customer service manager was wrong for her lackadaisical and nonchalant attitude.

The sad thing is that this was an entirely unproductive exchange. The original CSR wasted valuable time trying to convince me to do the wrong thing. She created a situation with escalating emotions and unneeded stress. She wasted my time and the manager's time in the process. She created a negative experience that I've shared with at least eight people before posting on this blog.

The second conversation took a minute, two at the most, and I left satisfied that I had been provided with the correct information and the CSR moved quickly to the next call.

Good customer service works.