Are You on the Right Side of Quality Customer Service?

“Quality Customer Service.”
Those are three big words. If you’re on the wrong side of those words it could have devastating consequences for your business’ reputation.

I don’t know that any of us out there are involved in a business that doesn’t have the goal of providing “Quality Customer Service”; but are you delivering? It’s funny how some of the simplest decisions you make in your day-to-day interaction can have such a profound impact on your company’s reputation as a provider of “Quality Customer Service”. This was displayed in dealings with 2 companies this week.

We are getting into the heart of “Convention Season” in our industry. Trade shows offer a great opportunity for us to get out in front of our existing and prospective clients. This year, SuccessWare and our mobile field service partners, SWRemote, decided we would jazz up our booths a bit with a new look and feel. We planned to create new signs, tablecloths, new giveaways, new paperwork- the whole deal.

What happened next gave a perfect example of being on the right or wrong side of the phrase “Quality Customer Service”.

First, the good:

Creating signs for a trade show booth is a pretty complicated affair. You need artistic design, proofs that need to be created and there’s argument (good-natured) about what looks good and what doesn’t. The art is then sent to a production company that ultimately proofs and then creates the actual signs. We worked with the sign company in advance to be sure that we had appropriate lead time and that the materials we were ordering were available. We got everything in on time and everything should have been fine. Then, as you might expect, something went wrong (Murphy’s Law). The company that was producing our signs ran out of the hardware for one of our sign types. This could have created quite a mess for us, however, without missing a beat, the company stepped up, took responsibility for the mistake and produced our signs using a more expensive set of materials than we had ordered. They were gracious, apologetic and produced both for SWRemote and SuccessWare, beautiful booth displays. Steve Kiernan, the president of SWRemote and I talked at length about what an impressive example of “Quality Customer Service” we had experienced. We will share our positive experience with others and certainly use the company again. In today’s social media world, positive word travels fast.

So do negative ones.

In addition to the ordering of new signage, orders were placed for new “swag”… you know, Stuff We All Get… handouts at a trade show. A similar process was employed to the one that we used in creating the signs; build our artwork, contact the company to be sure what we needed was in stock and that they could get it to us in the timeframe we needed and send out the order. Everything was a go!

…or so we thought.
Days passed. No emails, no shipping confirmation. A call to the company reveals that while we had been assured the product we were ordering was “in the warehouse and ready to go”, it was indeed not available. It WOULD be available soon, but the only way to get it on our hands on time was overnight $hipping. The cost of the shipping….let’s just say that unless I knew the space shuttle program had shut down a few years ago I would have assumed that was the method of transport they would be using for delivery. No offer of apology accompanied this news, no offer to reduce the shipping, no acceptance of responsibility. We finally settled on having the product shipped directly to the trade show, but with a caveat from the company; Because this was to now be a rush (Through no fault of ours), they were making NO guarantee that the printing would be correct, and if it wasn’t… NO REFUNDS! As I’m listening to this employee, the provider of “Quality Customer Service” to his customers, all I could think of was Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka yelling “It’s all there, black and white, clear as crystal! You stole fizzy lifting drinks! You bumped into the ceiling which now has to be washed and sterilized, so you get nothing! You lose! Good day, sir!”

The comparison:

Two similar scenarios, two dramatically different approaches to delivering “Quality Customer Service”. Quality Customer Service doesn’t mean you have to give something away for free. To most customers an acceptance of responsibility when a mistake is made and an honest attempt to rectify the problem in a way that minimizes impact is all that can be asked.

An environment of “Quality Customer Service” is one that has to be nurtured, encouraged and expected within a company. Believe me, your customers will notice when it’s not there.

For the next two weeks we’ll be on the road. Come visit us at the SGI Expo March 11-14 in Dallas and at ACCA 2014 March 17-19 in Nashville. Come learn about our products and see our new displays. We hope our package of giveaways will be there too. We’re hoping they’ve thrown in some chocolate.