This is a story about customer service success in a challenging situation.
The client is a business that walks the talk on customer service and the market recognizes this.
The current problem was caused by one of their main suppliers going bankrupt. They do a lot of custom orders and when a customer orders product they make a commitment to a delivery date and they trust their supplier will come through.
The new owners of the supplier take over and promise to produce the product again. It becomes frustrating when you make an effort to work with the supplier to understand the timelines and then also manage the expectations of the customers and there is still additional delays!
How do you give good customers service when the problem is totally out of your control? Here’s how:
1) Be proactive – Businesses need to educate the customer to the situation, no matter how painful the discussion might be. The customer needs to know how hard management is working at resolving the problem.
2) Be willing to invest in preserving a long-term relationship. It is a known fact that a customer that experiences a problem that is resolved satisfactorily will be a more loyal customer than one that never had a problem. Some monetary compensation is worth considering, especially when you recognize the lifetime value of future sale the customer may bring.
3) Accept that the business could lose some customers. Sometimes you have to ‘call the baby ugly’. There will be customers that don’t return. You really can’t blame them and you can’t control it anyway. Might as well let it go and move on instead of letting it continue to frustrate everyone.
Finally, the team decided to bring the boss into the discussion. Although the owners support the sales team and give them the autonomy of making their own decisions, this is a worthwhile exception. It was decided a call from the boss to apologize for the problem and to confirm that the sales team has done everything they could would go a long way.
Shortly after we had the discussion among the team confirming the painful steps required, one of the sales team made a proactive call to one of the affected customers.
Not only did the customer thank them for the update, they said, “I have dealt with other businesses that had problems outside their control before and the service was poor. I knew management would be all over this. I am so impressed with your efforts, and I will never deal with any other business than yours.”
I was fortunate to be there when she shared the news with management about the call. It was the kind of event that can lift the whole team out of a funk and provide hope that making the effort is actually worthwhile.
By sharing this story, I hope you can take a little slice of optimism and hope that caring about your customers, working with what you can control and letting go of the frustrations is still a viable business practice that gets rewarded at least some of the time.