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Ken Keller: How to take customer service to the next level

Posted: September 23, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 23, 2012 2:00 a.m.

I believe that Disneyland has it right when it comes to fulfilling its goal to be “the happiest place on Earth.” In the many times I have been there, I have not been disappointed at the experience. This is a key reason I keep returning, despite rising ticket prices.

Let me compare my Disneyland experiences with that another provider I have used for many years at my home.

This particular company communicates only when it sends a bill. If you call it, you have to listen to the various options that it believes you want to hear versus just saying upfront, “If you want to speak to one of our customer service employees, hit zero.”

Thus, I have given up calling.

Prior to making this decision, when I was able to reach someone, employees were polite, but the followthrough was poor. In my particular case after several calls and a visit to their office, their follow through was non-existent.

Visiting their office is adventure. The company doesn’t like customers visiting, because parking for paying customers simply doesn’t exist.

Once you find the location, you stand at the front door and are buzzed in, after being given the once over to make sure you are not armed or dangerous.

The person greeting me in their small and unclean lobby treated me as if I was an interruption of what appeared to be a nonstop coffee break and socializing. She was not empowered to address my issue, so another person was summoned to speak to me.

I stood in the lobby waiting. I noticed many plaques and awards on the wall. I looked at these carefully. I determined that all of the awards were for sales results, but I did not see anything related to customer service or customer retention. Apparently these key result areas are not critical to this company.

After a short wait, someone came to see me — apparently surprised that a customer would make the trek to their difficult to find office, hunt down and find a rare parking space only to be buzzed into their dirty lobby to address an issue impacting a paying customer.

The woman I spoke with took two trips back to her office to check something. They had made a mistake when entering my data into their system. I had asked for this service provider to debit my checking account each month and had previously dropped off a cancelled check for this revised billing arrangement. They ended up trying to bill a credit card that did not exist.

When the first bill arrived and my checking account had not been debited, I called and was told that I still had a credit balance and that everything was fine.

Two additional bills later, I knew something was wrong and made the investment of time to visit and to get things straightened out, hopefully for the last time.

I’ll know on Oct. 15 if they got it right. When I wake up on Oct. 16 it better be or I will make another trip down to cancel this service and find another supplier.

Customer service has five phases. The first is “below accepted minimums.” The second is “meet expectations.” The third is to “exceed expectations.” The fourth is to “delight the customer” and the final step is “customer ecstasy.”

The gap between where I see this supplier and how it would rate itself is large. The saddest part is not only that it doesn’t see the gap; it might not care.

Ken Keller is CEO of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with companies interested in growing top line revenue. He can be reached at Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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