Walking the Talk: When Delivering on the Promise Fails

Customer Service with a SmileHow well does all of the talk about delivering on the promise convert into real customer experiences? It sounds wonderful in corporate meetings and contributes to great PR, but what happens when customers walk through the door?

Customer relationships are built one experience at a time. It takes many deposits in the trust fund before loyalty appears. One withdrawal due to poor service can remove years of good will. When this happens, it opens the door of opportunity to your competition.

Even raving fans can be alienated.

I used to be a raving fan of a big box electronics company. Visiting it was a hobby that often separated me from my money. And, everyone who mentioned being in the market for anything the company sold received a referral. Not any more.

The slide down the slippery slope of customer betrayal started when they lost a computer they were supposed to be repairing. They found it after two weeks, but not once was an apology offered. I know that things happen and have no interest in compensation, but a simple and sincere “we’re sorry” goes a long way towards repairing lost trust.

The relationship’s downhill slide continued when I needed a cable and visited the new store in Asheville. I asked the sales associate to direct me to the cables. He asked what I needed. I told him. He replied, “There is no such cable” and walked away without providing directions.

The first choice can become the last.

When I realized that my laptop needed additional memory, I hesitated about visiting the store that I once loved. When my online research indicated that I needed a proprietary memory chip, I decided to try their specialized support department.

It took 12 minutes to receive assistance even though I was the only customer in the store. Five associates passed me to chat with other associates. When someone finally arrived, he checked my computer and said that I needed a standard chip but they were out of stock. My “are you sure it isn’t proprietary?” question received an “I know what I’m doing” look and curt “yes.” I requested that he check inventory at the other store. They had it in stock so I asked for the SKU number and trekked across town.

When I arrived at the other store, it took me 22 minutes to receive assistance. By this time, I had resolved myself to finishing the experience as an experiment in good service gone bad. After talking with a sales associate and being referred back to their support team, it turned out that I was right. The memory was proprietary. Furthermore, the company doesn’t sell it.

I suggested to the team member that she might mention my experience in the next “how can we improve our service” meeting. She asked if I would speak with a supervisor. After saying that I would, I waited 10 minutes for him to appear. By this time, I had two hours invested without a solution and no more patience.

Service done right.

My next stop was a locally owned, three store computer sales and service center. My computer was checked, the memory ordered, and I was on my way in less than 10 minutes. The difference was amazing. During my short wait, I received three updates and an explanation for the delay. (They had to make sure that they could find the right chip.)

I have a new favorite electronics place. It doesn’t have the selection of my former one, but it has the service I need. Hopefully, my experience will inspire you to ask two questions about your company:

  1. Are we doing anything to drive our customers away?
  2. What can we do to attract customers leaving our competition?

The answers may be more than enlightening. They may be the start of a new business model.

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