Recently, I purchased something which I then decided was incorrect and wanted to return. I hadn’t opened the box, removed the price sticker or anything. It was in EXACTLY the same condition as when I’d taken it out of the store. When I tried to return it I had such an unpleasant experience that I left feeling angry and wanting to start sending out tweets and blogging about how bad this company was and how people should avoid dealing with them. After I calmed down I decided it wasn’t worth it.
However, it did get me thinking about my experiences as a customer. Whenever I’ve dealt with large corporates, whether banks, telcos and others I’ve found their customer service to be polite and attempting to be helpful. Mostly they’ve been able to address my issues. Yes it did take a fair bit of time and repeating the same request a number of times until I got to the “right” department or person but I usually felt I’d been heard and had an answer to my issue even if the answer was “no”.
Dealing with small business has lately been a different story. Often, you can’t get through to anyone at all, multiple phone calls leaving messages, emails, SMSs go unanswered and I’m left angry, frustrated and wanting to tell everyone what a pain this crowd is to deal with. In this day of instant global communication and viral marketing that can be really bad news for a business.
So what should a small business do? Firstly, respond to emails and messages. Return calls. Listen to the client. Even if you can’t do what they’re asking simply taking the time and paying attention will have them feeling heard and acknowledged.
Anthony Robbins talks about the six human needs: Certainty, Variety, Connection, Contribution, Growth, Significance. While we may not be able to meet all these needs if we aim to cover as many as possible in our interactions we’ll be way ahead.
Small business people are very busy. They usually have many roles to fulfill. You don’t need to be available 24/7. However, if someone leaves a message, respond. If they send an email – reply even if it’s to say “I can’t give you an answer right now but will get back to you within x days, hours, weeks” – whatever you need to do the job. And then fulfill your commitment.
If you have a restaurant, coffee shop, store etc don’t leave customers standing around. There have been a few times recently where I’ve been wondering if I’ve discovered an invisibility cloak and hadn’t realised it. It doesn’t cost anything to be polite and helpful but it costs a heap if you’re not.