Is good customer service dead and buried?

You only have to glance online to hear nightmare stories of poor customer service, and like most of us I have had my fair share. Only last week I had the ‘pleasure’ of flying Ryanair and experienced its awful service. Whilst I understand the phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ – surely speaking to customers with no respect, or worse still, rudely shouldn’t happen regardless of whether you are flying on a low cost airline?

On my way on to the plane, I was forced to prove that my hand luggage bag was the right dimension – fair enough. But it didn’t end there. I was then told I was delaying the flight. Why?  Because I couldn’t get my case out of the baggage size checker. My bag may well have been on the large size but it did fit – I had measured it beforehand! I was then subject to a rant from a representative of Ryanair saying I was delaying the flight (the flight was not due to take off for another 20 minutes) and they would close the doors if I didn’t get on the flight immediately. No offer to help remove my bag which, of course, would have sped up the process – just a barrage of abuse.  Of course I made the flight – in fact we didn’t take off until the scheduled departure time!

It’s experiences like this that make examples of good customer service that much nicer, and surprising.  But should you be shocked when you receive a good service? No, but it appears that in a society where poor customer experiences are rife, to feel surprised is somewhat common.  I shop at Sainsbury’s each week, I like the produce, the staff are helpful and it is convenient.  However, like most organisations they make mistakes – but it is how they are dealt with that is important.

And in an age where the likes of Facebook and Twitter are regularly used to voice grievances about bad experiences, it is even more important for brands to deal with complaints properly. Following a recent complaint, not only did I receive a call immediately from head office, but I was sent a gift voucher and a letter apologising about it. Well done Sainsbury’s – customer service does still exist.  I tweeted Sainsbury’s thanking them for the good experience, and again got an immediate response acknowledging it. But it could have been very different. If I had not heard anything I may very well have taken to Twitter or Facebook but with a different, more hostile message.

This got me thinking about how other businesses have dealt with negative comments posted online.  The very fact that these complaints are in the public domain should, you would imagine, prompt a brand to acknowledge them and act accordingly. But it appears that this is not the case in many instances. Instead the ‘ignore it’ or ‘delete it’ approach seems to be favoured.

The decision to do so speaks volumes about a brands customer service policy. By doing this rather than acknowledging and rectifying the mistake goes to show how ill informed and unorganised a business can be. Take the recent Blackberry fiasco – poor customer service at its best. By not responding to comments on social media made the negative feeling towards the brand that much worse.

So is customer service dead and buried? And has social media made businesses change their policies? It appears some have, but for those who have chosen to ignore it – the decision may well prove costly.

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