The importance of customer service

When companies are small or new, they tend to treat every customer or potential customer as a king. When they grow, however, many of them forget this very elementary principle and stop treating customers like people to start treating them as their manuals of procedures command.

I once heard that small companies are agile like boys while big ones are slow and scaring like monsters. I didn't believe it until I had the chance to experience it myself.

That time, I was in need of purchasing something, a tangible product, for the first time. As I am not familiarized to buy such an item, I felt the need to find out some information about it. The first thing I did was to use the Internet.

Online, I found plenty of results, a few millions, as a matter of fact. A second search helped me narrow my options to the a few ones I felt more reliable suppliers. The first one had an own web page. I clicked there. Unfortunately for me, the "online help available" was offline. I must admit that was disappointing.

Abandoning that page, I went to a second website. This one didn't have a chat room available, but it had an online form for those who wanted some information. I filled it in, but the web page didn't allow me to send my form. Why not? Because their owners wanted to force me to include in the form information which, a potential client who has not decided to buy yet, was not interested in letting them know.

"Well, that's two options less on the list", I said, and went on with the third one.

This third website did have a contact form that worked, so I asked whether they could do the job and how much they would charge me. I waited for a day but I didn't get a reply, so that was the end of this third option.

The next one was not better. I found a complicated web page full of links, but I couldn't find a list of prices in it. I sent them an email and I got a reply next morning at about ten. In the reply, the clerk first congratulated me for choosing their company to get the product I was looking for (err... Boy, how can I tell you I hadn't made any decision yet, and that I was just asking?), and asked me to fill in the form I could find on a pasted link, so he could send me a password for me to login and check the list of prices on their website. I replied to that email saying I didn't want to give them any information for any database and that I was just asking for a price. The clerk replied and just told me that was their procedure.

Lastly, I sent an email to my fifth and last option on the list. Their response time was better: they took only an hour to write back. However, they didn't provide me with the information I requested. Instead, I received a long email explaining many things about the company I didn't really care about.

"Enough about the Internet, I guess".

Another company had a phone number on their website, so I called. The clerk answered in a place which was full of noise, which was uncomfortable. In spite of that, I managed to ask if they could do the job and they said that yes. However, when I asked how much it would cost me, the clerk didn't tell me anything specific. He just said that what I was asking for had too many options and that it would be better if I could come to their workshop so he could show me some options and give me a price. I found that tricky, so I said good-bye and hanged up.

I made another phone call to another company and asked my question. The clerk was probably in a hurry or a bad mood, because she just said "That information is already on our website, sir. Please take a look at it there." before hanging up.

"OK, thank you, good-bye".

The next one sent me to a machine: "If you know the extension, dial it now; else... If you want to talk to the reception desk, press one...". Ha! I hanged up. I was not in the mood to wait.

The next company I called replied in a much less noisy place, but they didn't give me an exact price either. They just told me they could cost between an amount X and an amount Y, depending on some details or characteristics I wished to include. After that, the person over the phone invited me to visit their office or asked me whether I preferred that a representative would go and visit me. I picked up my keys and left there. I had finally found my supplier.

Conclusions

+ Many businessmen may overlook it, but customer service is one of the most important parts of any organization. A good customer service may mean getting more clients day after day, while a bad one may mean having to waste money in useless advertising that will not return the investment.

+ A good customer service should be responsive and polite, but above all, it should reply the client's questions!

+ Customer service guidelines and protocols are acceptable, but, please, don't forget that the person at the other side is just that: a person. Nobody likes to talk with a machine, or worse, a person saying things like a machine would. It's really silly.

+ Last but not least, if you have a website or gave an email address, use it! It is very unprofessional to ask for something and not even get a reply.


Colleagues + Entrepreneurs