Is Your Customer Service an Asset or a Coffin?

Staples lost this author as a customer through poor service. Follow their example of how NOT to satisfy a customer, and make promises you can keep.

I went to Staples, our local office store, to get some supplies, and found a disk designed to check my computer programs for YK2 compliance. Throughout all of the paperwork that accompanied this disk, the Staples phone number was listed as the place to get additional information on a program designed to repair any problems this test disk revealed. So, I called the number to find out what the program repaired, the system requirements necessary to run the program, and the cost of the program, and here is what happened.

First, I sat through an automated menu. Then I spent close to 10 minutes on hold listening to their machine tell me that I was really important and please, do not hang up, because I really am important.

Then when I finally got to a live person, he told me, "There is no such product in my catalogue." At his suggestion, I read him their own advertising and promotional copy, in an attempt to prove that the product did indeed exist, and they were the ones stating that they sold it. This young man was adamant, and refused to even look further for the item. In total it was explained to me three times that I was obviously wrong, that this company had never carried, let alone sold this product, and that the flyer, in my hand had never been produced by this company.

After it was explained so thoroughly to me that I was wrong, I asked, "Why would I have called this number if your company was not printing flyers and promoting the product?" The answer I received will stay with me for the rest of my life:

"Well, I guess you learned something important today--don't call here!"

Working quickly, as I had to scrape my jaw up off the floor before I could talk, I asked for a supervisor. Once I got to the supervisor, and explained the situation, she called up the item I was looking for on her computer. It had been there all the time. Her suggestion was, "If you want the program, go to one of our retail stores. They should have it." She also assured me that she would talk to the gentleman with whom I had been speaking before. It was not a big purchase, but I tried my level best to give Staples my money, and they worked hard in refusing to take it.

When dealing with people, you should show them, not simply tell them through a recorded message, that they are important. What you say has to be supported by what you do. You need to look at your business and make the choice: substance or hot air?

By the way, I did go to their store, and they did have it on the shelf--but so did Office-Max, less than a mile farther down the road. If I decide to buy it, I am not sure where I will buy it, but I am sure where I will not buy it. If more of us vote with our wallets, and let it be known why we are doing so, maybe it will become just a little easier, and a lot more pleasant, do business.

Now--a related issue: why you should keep a promise.

When you make a promise you are saying, "This is my word, my bond, this is who I am." When you break a promise, no matter how justified or understandable the reason, you create a wall that will impede future communication. People who were let down, even if they accept and excuse the broken promise, will always be waiting for the other shoe to drop. If you break too many promises, they start discounting what you say, and your credibility is damaged. It may take years to rebuild your credibility, and sometime there is no way to salvage your reputation. Then you just have to start over and build a new relationship.

A client of mine once had to deal with a mortgage company for the purchase of a house. He paid for a 30 day pre-approval, which he never got. Phone calls were never returned when promised. Information was not provided when promised. The closing was canceled and rescheduled, on the day the closing was to take place, because the mortgage company suddenly could not be there. Items were brought up at the second closing that should have been take care of before by the mortgage company. My client was told that he would get a refund on the pre-approval fee he had paid. Instead, he received the pre-approval three days after the closing, with a note saying it was against company policy to issue refunds for this fee. When my client complained to the company's home office, a vice president called him and listened to the story. He was aghast at what he heard, and promised to call back in three days to see what he could do to correct what had happened. To this day no one has called back. This mortgage company has lost close to $3,000,000.00 in referrals, which my client diligently tracks. All this happened because of broken promises.

So remember, keeping promises also keeps communications and relationships open and positive.

Ivan Burnell is the president and founder of International Personal Development and IPD Publishing. For over 20 years he has been teaching people, businesses, and organizations how to achieve and succeed at levels that most never thought possible. He has helped millions of people lead happier, healthier, wealthier, and more productive lives. Visit his website or call 603-539-4795 for information on his books and tapes, Power Of Positive Doing’ Say YES to Life, and The YES Factor’ as well as his seminars and consulting services.

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