Sunday, November 22, 2009

Get Your Customer Service Issues Addressed

Anyone who has studied customer service in any depth knows that most of your dissatisfied customers never let you know. Even consistent, well-constructed surveys often don't produce a clear picture of what you're doing right and what you can do better.

Why don't people tell us when they have a problem? Maybe it's because they think we'll be offended, or that they might get us "in trouble." Maybe it goes back to the old model of a "Complaint Department" at businesses and stores, and people don't want to be perceived as complainers. For whatever reason, the percentage of people who do let us know they are unhappy is often compared to the "tip of the iceberg" with the other 90 to 95% of dissatisfied customers remaining silent. This creates a big problem for those of us who care about and deal with customer service (CS) issues. How can we improve if we don't know that we're doing something wrong, what we're doing wrong, and maybe the customers' ideas on how we might improve?

You don't have to be angry about bad service you received—but you might be—in order to contact a customer service representative at a business. A business that's interested in having a future will work with you to find a resolution. Here are some steps you can take to get the right kind of attention on a service issue:

  • Get relevant details ready for your call, chat or submission
  • Find out what to do if your first contact does not go well
  • Tell your story as simply as possible
  • Get attention on the details that created your dissatisfaction or problem
  • Be prepared to escalate your case to the next level
  • Try hard not to be overly confrontational; making the CS representative defensive doesn't help
  • Be realistic - you won't get a house in Malibu because your dryer doesn't work
  • Don't sell yourself short - have some idea of what will make you happy, and stick to that
  • Be prepared to go to the competition on your next opportunity, and let that be known
Let us know how we are doing. Focus your feedback. In the long run, you'll get better service all around.

Give it some thought.


  1. Quite often the reason customers won't tell a business they are unhappy is because they take the information and do little or nothing with it.

    Be prepared to take action on a complaint or better yet, empower the employee who receives it to handle it.

  2. Excellent point, Leslie. It is absolutely an essential part of customer service for there to be follow-through on the part of the business. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Roy, a great post on customer service just before Black Friday. These types of 'sale' days just might tax the best of sales persons... and... customers.

    You've given us a good pocket list of how-to's if we encounter poor service.

    A great Thanksgiving to you, kind sir.

  4. Thanks for the comment, Joanne. You're correct: Undoubtedly, "Black Friday" will bring some challenges on both sides of the counter. Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

  5. Roy, great stuff. You know why I make it a point NEVER to complain? Because the boss should already know. They've just affronted me - should I do them a favor? Instead, I take my business to their competition. - Ted coine

  6. Thanks Ted- You are correct. "Voting with your feet" is the ultimate power of the buyer. Hence my last bullet point about being prepared to walk, and saying so. I think it is important to let the business know why you're heading to the competition. Unfortunately, not every business owner understands that customer service has a direct Return on Investment.

    Thanks again, and Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. One further thought on "voting with your feet." It's not possible in every customer service situation. My line of work, for example, deals with supporting internal clients who have little choice but to deal with us. That makes good service even more important.