A collection of articles written by Customer 1st

Fast, efficient, service recovery is the only way to keep customers happy

9th September 2011 | Posted in Customer Relationships

I am following on from my last blog, in which I described the poor service I received from the company, Dreams, after my purchase of a top-of-the-range bed. I thought that you would like to know about the response I received from the company. The service recovery that I experienced, not only from the supplier, but also from the bed manufacturer, Millbrook, was interesting, to say the least. I certainly had not expected Millbrook to respond first, since it was not directly their problem; the service failure was to do with delivery of the item, and the condition it eventually arrived in. However, I felt that I should inform Millbrook, because one of their suppliers had let me down. I received the following response from Millbrook's Brand and Marketing Manager within three hours of sending that company an email:

"Thank you for your email; we are extremely disappointed to hear how the delivery of your new Millbrook Bed was handled, and thank you for letting us know. We will definitely be looking into this, as we do not expect customers to be treated this way and our products to be handled in such a way that they are delivered with dirty marks on them.

We would very much like to send you one of our new mattress toppers to make up for your appalling experience. If you can just let me know the size of your mattress, and your delivery address, I will arrange for one to be made sent and to you. It will take around three weeks, as they are handmade."

That was a great response that I had not expected. It made sense, on reflection, since Millbrook trades as a high quality manufacturer, and this would be aimed to protect their brand reputation.

Unfortunately Dreams, the supplier, was not as speedy with its response, and I received a letter approximately a month after the bed was delivered, and one week after I sent them a written complaint. Someone in Dreams had ignored the salesman's request to send a couple of vouchers to me as compensation, and it was only when I put pen to paper that I eventually received a letter and a £50 voucher to spend. (I could only spend it on Dreams products).

This all made me ponder - was it actually my letter that made them respond, or was it perhaps a phone call from Millbrook? Either way, Dreams certainly need to look at their processes, and, in particular, their service recovery. Despite me mentioning in my letter that the salesman had been excellent at the retail end, when I saw him recently as I was redeeming my voucher, he had heard nothing from the Customer Service Department. This shows another common failing: in addition to letting down me as an external customer, the company evidently was also not that interested in internal customer service, and the fact that the salesman had been let down by his own colleagues, and was very embarrassed about that.

I am afraid the service failures of this company do not end there. I waited 30 minutes for their service call centre to answer, and then I hung up. They have a reasonably informative website, but without an email address at which to contact them. There was really no clear and effective method of getting in touch with the company in the case of a complaint. Apart from allowing me to discharge some of my anger and frustration over this issue, I think the story does allow me to point to areas of service which could quite easily be addressed and improved in a lot of organisations. A few straightforward improvements to communication channels with both external and internal customers would make a huge difference. Problems would be flagged up and resolved far more quickly, customers could receive their products on time and in better condition, and the company could resolve its problems more effectively, thereby doing its reputation a world of good. Channel switching, that ability to go from website to phone, to email, according to the customer's preference, is essential, but sadly lacking in many companies.

Another key message here is to treat your customers professionally, and with respect, in all your dealings with them. They, in turn, will reward you with loyalty, but ignore them at your peril - you will certainly lose them. Handling complaints badly encourages us customers to resort to social media in order to inform thousands of people about bad service, and most customers are only too willing to name names. Social media allows news of bad service to spread extremely quickly to thousand or millions of customers, inflicting serious damage to brands in minutes. It seems that still, many companies do not really understand the basics of good customer care, and how the supply chain can impact on customer satisfaction. Some are product oriented but insufficiently service oriented.