Do you enjoy kicking your customers? Don't cringe at the question. It's not as crazy as it seems.
I'm still nursing bruises from three companies -- a major department store, a national automotive service club and a local home heating oil company -- that apparently think inflexibility, excuses and a failure to compromise are the keys to customer service.
And yet, while many companies stumble when it comes to serving their customers, others shine -- even during this busy time of year, according to ClickFox, a provider of experience analytics.
The Good, the Bad and the Silly
Target, Macy’s, Nordstrom and Best Buy know how to keep customers happy. They ranked top in customer service according to the 2013 ClickFox Holiday Customer Experience survey. While it's a small survey, reflecting the views of only 535 consumers nationwide, it has some interesting results.
For instance, not all retailers measure up. In fact, with fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, consumers have actually lowered their customer service expectations. The majority (78 percent) believe retailers emphasize having the best deals and prices during the holidays and more than half (51 percent) think giving the best customer service during this period is the lowest priority.
However, there are limits to their patience. If negative service experiences are not resolved at the first point-of-contact, consumers will use every channel in the book to get the attention of service representatives, including email, use of social media and, finally, calling customer service. According to ClickFox CEO Marco Pacelli:
Many retailers have a siloed view in their engagement with their customers. It is important to realize that consumers are more likely than ever to leave a trail of negative engagements in multiple channels before calling the contact center.”
Back to Reality
Let's divert for a moment from the theoretical world of the survey to, well, the real world -- and go back to those three companies that did me wrong. None of the companies had even a weak conviction that the customer was always right.
Take Lord & Taylor, for instance. As the oldest luxury specialty-retail department store chain in the US, you might think it would know the secret to customer service. But apparently it doesn't, even when it comes to online shopping.
Here's what happened. I ordered a pair of boots online. As soon as I hit "submit" on the order, I realized I had forgot to update my shipping address. So I went to the website for a live chat. Even though I tried to start a chat during the hours it was allegedly available, nothing happened.
No, I take that back. When I tried to initiate a chat, the interface generated an email -- and a reply that someone would get back to me as soon as possible. (That was three days ago.) So I called customer service. But no one could help me because my order wasn't in the system yet.
So I waited for email confirmation of the order and called back. But was it possible to change the shipping address or even cancel the order? Ah, no. Thinking someone with more authority could help, I asked to speak to a supervisor. None was available. Hours later, one called back. The bottom line: there was nothing she could do.
So much for resolving a problem.
A Dead Car, No Heat
Lord & Taylor was my third customer service failure in two weeks. On Black Friday, I called my local AAA motor club for battery service. According to its marketing materials, AAA will install a new battery: "Right at your home, workplace, or even on the side of the road."