Customer Experience

Don’t Make It Right? Lose a Customer

When a customer service interaction goes wrong, you can lose a customer. Here’s how to avoid that.

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I recently had one of the worst customer service experiences of my life. I spent a few hundred dollars on tickets to a video game convention as a gift for my nephew. However, the tickets were marked “special delivery.” When I followed up, I was told that I would be given instructions on the day of the event as to how to get the tickets—which could range from downloading an e-mail (the venue requires physical badges) to meeting a reseller in a nearby parking lot. Needless to say, if this wasn’t an interaction with a large vendor, I’d feel like I’d been scammed. Poor customer service ultimately left me unclear about how to claim my nephew’s tickets and vowing to never work with the service again. Let’s take a closer look at what went wrong—and how the whole debacle could have been avoided.

Assess the problem: In this instance, there was a strange caveat to the product I purchased that I didn’t note or understand. Personally, I never would have bought the tickets if I knew it meant meeting someone in a sketchy parking lot! The information was there, but it was buried and not readily disclosed. Even as customer service noted this, there was no action to take. As a customer service organization, focus on your customer’s experience, and when something occurs that’s out of line with your company’s values, take steps to fix it. Perhaps that individual customer’s situation won’t be resolved, but interactions like this should encourage you to evaluate your policies for the future.

Find a resolution: It quickly became clear that refunding the transaction or exchanging it for tickets that would be mailed wasn’t going to happen. Fundamentally, I just wanted to know where and when I could get the tickets so I could plan ahead. Complete resolution wouldn’t be possible; but if an agent had taken a few minutes to contact the seller or look into the problem further to get the information I needed, we could have achieved a state of balance.

Correlate outreach and urgency: By the time I gave up on the process, the customer service department and I had exchanged 28 e-mails. In each e-mail, a different customer service agent repeated the same general information. There was no real insight, no additional information, and as a customer, it essentially felt like I’d hit a brick wall. A customer who exchanges 28 e-mails with you cares about this issue. From a customer service perspective, have a plan in place to identify high-risk relationships and interactions.

Know when to escalate: In each of those messages, I requested to speak with a manager. My requests were ignored, and no manager contacted me. Perhaps this was the most disheartening part of the experience. Customers want to know you care, and even if a manager isn’t able to solve the problem, it’s good to know that a customer service leader values your relationship enough to check in. Have a strategy in place that identifies when to escalate a call, even if you ultimately can’t give the customer a refund or other resolution he or she might want.

Ultimately, the situation wasn’t resolved and ended with me vowing to never do business with the company again. The whole issue could have been avoided; as a customer, I didn’t need it to give me exactly what I wanted. Information on how to get the tickets, a refund, an exchange, or even just a manager callback would have been enough to save the relationship—as I have done business with this company frequently and often. It wasn’t a product issue or a sales issue. It was a customer service failure. Don’t let the same thing happen to your business.