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How do you treat your customers?

By
Hope Stephan
Hope Stephan

At the Business Journal’s Small Business Week kickoff event last week at Clair Brothers’ amazing facility in Manheim, questions during a panel discussion turned toward dealing with difficult customers. It was clear many in the audience expected to hear hair-raising tales of working with rock star prima donnas.

But the answers focused on customer service values, the importance of treating every customer as though he or she is your only customer, and ensuring that results always meet or exceed expectations. Clair Brothers Audio Systems, Clair Global, TAIT Towers and Atomic Design have worked with the biggest names in entertainment — people who seek them out for their quality, innovation and consistent delivery. (Here’s our story from the June 14 issue.)

But Michael Tait of TAIT Towers had this to say (and I’m paraphrasing slightly): “We treat everyone who comes in the door like they are the next star. You never know.”

Is your customer service focused like that, or is it more about you, your convenience, your drive to keep costs down today even if that means losing a customer tomorrow?

I ask because, coincidental to that discussion, I’m a grumpy consumer right now. And such a cliché — my beefs are with my connectivity provider and an airline.

Let’s get the first one out of the way first. On Monday night, the TV signal froze. I rarely have problems with this company, so I don’t have its customer service number handy. It’s not on the bill, so I went online. That’s when I discovered the company doesn’t really want to talk to me except for billing questions or upgrading my service. Any link to “support” or “customer service” led to either a “virtual assistant,” online forums where customers try to help each other, or text troubleshooting instructions.

Round and round I went, before opting for C.

Nothing worked, despite several iterations of “Step 1, Step 2, etc.” so I Googled the name of my service provider and “customer service phone number,” thinking that would give me a back way into what I wanted on its website. (Handy tip: This usually works. Just because information isn’t easy to find on a site doesn’t mean it isn’t there.)

What I had to settle for was a site called gethuman.com. Very handy — but there’s something cockeyed about a company (my service provider) that started out as a phone company not wanting its customers to call it.

Though I now had the number, I let the issue drop, since I would be traveling the rest of the week.

Which brings me to the airline. Online check-in can be a time-saver, but not with Airline X. It gives you several options — enter confirmation number, frequent flyer number or ticket number. The catch? If you try one and it rejects it, the whole form resets. You can’t just go back to that one field. Neither my confirmation number — which it asked for first — nor my frequent flyer number worked, but my ticket number did.

I went through the same rigmarole when I tried to pay online for the bag I planned to check. If any field was rejected (this time it was the ticket number), you started over. Way over. All the way back to initial online check-in.

I also couldn’t initiate the process before I was inside the 24-hour window ahead of the flight. Some airlines will let you register as a customer the day you buy your ticket. Then you get automatic updates on the flight without having to fill out an entirely separate form. Not with Airline X! It forced me to submit the same info for each leg of the flight, so that was four times.

This is really why I didn’t contact the cable provider that night. I spent too much time on the website of Airline X.

Am I too whiney? Maybe. The nightmare customer? I don’t think so.

But I am a customer with choice in both of these instances. Cable TV is an expensive time-waster, and I’ve been thinking for months about dropping it. Last week may have been the final push I need.

Same goes for Airline X. Why should I fly with it again, if I don’t have to? The Web experience has lowered my expectations for a good flight, and unless the customer service proves to be A-plus, my opinion of this company won’t improve.

The week ahead

Business Journal reporter Jason Scott will have a travel-related story, with an update on the tourism privatization push in Pennsylvania.

Don’t forget to join us at 9 a.m. Monday for a live chat with Andrew Carter, CEO of The Hospital & Healthsystem of Pennsylvania. Carter will be answering your questions about Medicaid expansion, the state budget and what it all means for your business.

Looking for network opportunities in the coming week? Click here.

The rewind

Did you get a chance to see the videos entered in our Small Business Rocks contest? Find them here.

Also, don’t miss our latest Health Care Report, with need-to-know information on the PPACA, which is having a major impact on most businesses.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Google Glass, with a focus on how a range of authorities were seeking to regulate its use before it even got out of beta testing. It seems the hardware is not catching on the way many expected and for a reason you might not expect: the dork factor. On the other hand, maybe this contact lens will be a winner.

And last week, like a gazillion other people, I wrote about NSA leaker Edward Snowden. His revelations spurred a flurry of defensive responses from megadata entities like Facebook and Google (which use metadata to tailor ads to viewers). Of course, the NSA has a Facebook page.

 

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@cpbj.com

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