Juliet Simmons our guest writer this week wonders whether customer service is easier for the freelance or independent business.
When I was about ten we went on a family holiday to California. There are many things that I recall about that trip (how lucky I was to go, meeting Mickey Mouse, mountains of food) but I especially remember joking with my sister about how whenever we’d go into a store we’d get lost in the apartment sized changing rooms and someone would tell us to “Have a Nice Day!”. Many years on I look back and think that perhaps we still have much to learn from that culture.
Over the past weeks I’ve despaired at terrible customer service, I’ve told friends that I’m afraid that I’m turning into a grump and worry that perhaps I am expecting too much. Maybe I was wrong to expect a leading online retailer that took my money in error to allow me to speak to a real person rather than deal with the query on email. I also wondered if I wanting to be reassured about security rather than be told that there is “simply nothing we can do?” was unreasonable.
Another day I began to question if I was being difficult – expecting to pay the price I was quoted by a high end bakery for my cake rather than being charged more for it at the till. And when I sent back cold food at a restaurant and then questioned whether I should pay for it or for a service charge I felt very uncomfortable. My list goes on – I’ve struggled with running shoes, health insurance and more…and have begun to think perhaps customer service is just extremely hard to find.
As someone who has recently started her own business each time I had a terrible experience I found myself more and more surprised. I know how critical my customers are to me and how important it is to listen to them and to deliver 110%. I always try to stand in their shoes and see things from their point of view but I was left wondering if anyone else really cared about service at all.
When I work on projects if I quote a price I deliver on it, if my client wants reassurance I talk to them, if something goes wrong I work through those issues. Perhaps I care more as it’s my business but surely putting the customer at the heart of all that we do is the key to future success and growth?
Following my bad experiences I politely gave feedback by twitter and wrote emails when I could. I was apologised to, given some vouchers, reprimanded for tweeting and ignored in turn.
Those that did get back to me thanked me for the feedback and a common theme started to emerge. As they’d grown these businesses had found it hard to retain their brand values and deliver the service that had allowed them to grow in the first place. I found that interesting, challenging and then, rather surprisingly, found myself becoming empathetic rather than angry.
Don’t get me wrong, in my mind there is no excuse for poor service and, as the old saying goes, the customer is king. But for me it was food for thought. Growth is what we aim for – we all want to be successful and to deliver great projects. Perhaps then our biggest challenge is to find the right people to work with and to make sure that as we grow our values remain intact and our customers remain happy and continue to “Have a Nice Day!”.
Juliet Simmons is the Founder of Piece of Cake, a creative consultancy.
You’ll find her on Twitter at @julietsimmons