Customer Service and Customer Disservice
Any company can say they care – but watch their actions, not just their words. The true test of a company’s integrity, I always think, is not what and how they sell but how they deal with problems when these arise.
Because I work with consumer goods companies and with trade associations, I take a great interest in examples, good and bad, of customer service. There is the story in the book ‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins about the Ironman Triathlete who rinsed his cottage cheese to squeeze out every last drop of fat. There is no evidence, the author points out, that he needed to do that to win the Ironman: but it was one small step he believed would make him that much better… one more step added to all the other small steps to greatness.
I thought of this when, as a consumer, I experienced two very different reactions when I contacted companies. The first was the beauty brand, NARS. I have used their lipsticks for years. Then, a new lipstick snapped, damaging a dress. It was clearly faulty. Yet when I asked the company to replace it, the customer services person (let’s call her Claudia) treated me as if I’d opted for wanton damage, refused to replace it, sent incorrect labelling for a return so that the item boomeranged back to me, and then took weeks over a reluctant decision to refund me involving 24 emails with Claudia. I will never buy their products again. It is a surprising ethos from the well-established Japanese company, #Shisheido, which owns the #NARS brand.
My second experience was yesterday. I have a #BaByliss product which, simply due to wear and tear, ideally needed a part replacing. I wrote to the firm (Conair) who immediately wrote back to me. They were courteous, efficient, apologetic, charming, and empowered. Thank you, Hannah and Rebecca, at the #Conair Customer Care Team. They were sorry they couldn’t replace the worn part but they helped me to purchase a replacement item. All this took less than five working days.
It was customer service at its best. And that’s not all: when I visited their website to buy a replacement, they donated 3% of the price to the charity Beauty Banks. Three cheers for this exemplar of good practice. It’s a company that seems great not just good. I don’t suppose the boss washes the cottage cheese, but the attention to detail every step of the way is impressive. The result is that I’m wedded to the brand even more – and I’m telling you about it.
What were the underlying motivations for the different approaches? It seems to me that what makes the one company great is the apparent empowerment of the staff and a clear, progressive, customer-focused strategy. The great company worried more about its reputation and creating customer delight. The rotten company worried more about whatever the margin is on a £22 product.