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Soaring Soapbox: The Buck Stops Here…

The buck stops here…

So often in customer service it is the simple matter of communication that is of most importance, and yet it so often doesn’t happen.

We are in the process of having some building work done at home – fairly simple but it involves a builder, plasterer, electrician and flooring company. All the chaps (not being sexist I promise – there just haven’t been any ladies on site) have been great – the same cannot be said for the management team and project manager. The company has clearly taken on more work than they can deliver under their current resources, promises have been made and not kept but most importantly no one is picking up the phone to discuss things.

Whilst a three month (and counting) overrun was hardly ever going to make me happy, a few calls now and then, progress reports and updates would have made me confident the job would get done…

Enough of my woes though. What is most important here, and the lesson the builders need to learn, is that of communication. They have phone numbers, email and postal addresses yet they do nothing. Even the alleged customer service department has not followed up their own promises to investigate the issues and provide a resolution.

It is inevitable in business that there will be the odd problem – I have personally been a huge fan of John Lewis for many years, not just because they perform superbly nine times out of ten. But on the odd occasion things go wrong their communication and customer service has been fantastic.

Companies need to accept the fact that they will make the odd mistake in the course of their day to day work and ensure they have contingencies and plans in place to provide a suitable solution to their customers. Most importantly though they need to open up a dialogue and communicate. Leaving someone in the dark is going to cause far more headaches in the long run than openly discussing problems and putting together a plan to solve the issues.

Whilst it wouldn’t have worked in the example I have described, even social media is one of the many tools companies can use to maintain customer service and dialogue with their clients. The immediacy of social media is particularly useful as you can use it for instant updates and conversations.

Close management of social channels can also allow you to spot trends in customer dissatisfaction and escalating issues – this insight frequently allows you get ahead of complaints, identify the source of problems and manage them proactively rather than reactively – which ultimately means your solution is likely to be more focused than a knee jerk panic.

Effective communication ultimately gets you out ahead of the problems and a well resolved challenge can in fact improve relationships in the long term and create confidence for the future.

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