Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Just Say No to Bad Customer Service
I had to fire someone today.
No, it wasn't an employee, but a vendor. We've had trouble dealing with this particular company; we've made five purchases from them, and four of those purchases required a return visit because the product was defective. Today, when we complained about screw-up #4, the representative argued with us. His argument was this: if we had been doing OUR jobs right, we would have seen their screw-up in advance. I replied by severing our business relationship with them.
Yesterday, I picked up my car from the mechanic. It was a job that should have taken a day to fix, but thanks to a screw-up on their end (the part they bought didn't work), they had my car for almost a week while they sorted everything out. When the bill came, it was full price. When I left the shop, which was out in the boondocks, I was told, "You're kind of low on gas...you should fill it up right away." I got a mile down the road--a country road--when the car ran out of gas. Stranded, I had to walk a mile to get some gas. I severed that business relationship as well.
Over the last few weeks, bad customer service seems to be a growing trend in my life. The problem is, these same people I've dealt with are complaining about how tough times are and that business is not good. Think there's a connection? I do.
Maybe it's because I worked in management for 18 years for companies that always stressed the importance of good customer service. If I didn't make the customer happy, my boss would. Then I'd spend the rest of the day in my boss's office being asked why I didn't take care of the customer. Funny thing was that NONE of these companies complained about business being slow or times being tough. That's because they knew how to deliver GREAT customer service.
My brother Mat, who has been successful in the computer sales/repair business for 14 years, said this to me: "I always insist on giving the best customer service to my clients. I only expect about half as much customer service in return. Everyone's standards are way too low." I've worked with companies who, in tough times, have replaced their "The customer is always right" mantra with sayings such as "Sometimes you have to fire some customers." While the customer may NOT be always right, the trick is never letting them know they aren't right. That's good business, plain and simple.
This idea, of course, translates with uncommon relevance to the high-end audio industry. I've always railed against high-end dealers who cultivate a snobbish attitude toward customers. My famous story is of one audio dealer who once told me not to breathe on one of their turntables. All I wanted to do was get a closer look to see what model it was. I severed that business relationship before it started.
There are plenty of high-end audio dealers who get it. I've always championed dealers such as Gene Rubin of Gene Rubin Audio, Dan Muzquiz of Blackbird Audio Gallery, Brian DiFrank of Whetstone Audio and Peter Selesnick of Venice Audio. These gentlemen ALWAYS bend over backwards to treat their customers with respect, kindness and gratitude. Gene, for example, states on his website that he has been in business since 1979, and he has yet to have a customer service complaint. These are the people who have earned your business.
It comes down to this: just say no to bad customer service. Once you receive bad customer service, sever that business relationship at once. The hi-fi shop proprietor who told me not to breathe on his turntable is no longer in business. Good. He doesn't deserve customers.
In this crappy economy, everyone has low and competitive prices. So give your money to those who deserve it...those who distinguish themselves from their competitors by offering GREAT customer service.