Wednesday 30 October, 2013

3 Huge Customer Service Faux Pas by Major Companies

When a customer service gaffe hits a huge company, it can cost them dearly in sales. For your small business, it could be the end. Trust is hard to win back after you’ve lost it. Here are three major customer service blunders that went viral and cost big companies big-time.

Saying Sorry Isn’t That Hard

An Australian retail store called GASP learned the hard way that when you’re rude to a customer (which you should never be in the first place), the least you can do is to apologize.

When a customer decided against a purchase, the sales clerk made fun of the customer’s weight right to their face. Naturally, the customer went home and wrote a letter to the store’s manager. The manager’s reply was that in the future the customer should avoid the store so as to not waste any more of the sales staff’s time.

How can it get any worse than that? Here’s how – the customer posted the correspondence online and it went viral. At this point, the company apologized, right? Wrong. It sent an email to a local news outlet saying the store didn’t need that particular kind of customer.

It’s a bit ironic that the company is called ‘GASP,’ considering its approach to customer service. Since the incident in 2011, business is suffering and rightly so.

Takeaway – Don’t be a jerk to your customers. If someone at your company is rude to a customer, take the customer’s side for goodness sakes.

Kill the Comments!

Harry & David is an online gift basket service with a warm and fuzzy website design but an approach to customer service that’s similar to a totalitarian regime.

When a customer was charged multiple times for the same order and didn’t get a response from the retailer, they took the problem to the company’s social media page. Along with several other customers, they posted about the problem there. The company replied by deleting the messages and banning these treasured customers from its social media profile.

Apparently the company knows nothing about reputation management damage control. The problem went from a faux pas and slight social media problem to one of the world’s favorite bad customer service stories, costing the company dearly (by the way, it never responded or refunded the customer’s account).

Takeaway – You need to respond to your customers quickly and responsibly, especially when something goes wrong with an order. When there’s a social media problem, turn it into a discussion and an opportunity to show you care about your customers.

Death and Cell Phone Bills

When Cynthia Lacy’s father died in 2009, Verizon continued charging him for his phone service in typical big phone company auto-pilot fashion. Even after she sent his death certificate, representatives of the company refused to cancel the account without his PIN number. One representative even laughed at her quandary.

Lacy instead went to someone more responsive – the Consumer’s Edge column of The St. Petersburg Times. After its reputation was thoroughly dragged through the muck, Verizon finally canceled the account.

Takeaway – Don’t hire people that don’t care. When a customer has a problem, stick with them until a reasonable solution has been solved. Keep in mind that if your sales staff isn’t responsive, the nearest media outlet is.

Bob Steele

Bob Steele is an entrepreneur, software developer, marketer, and author living in the Denver metropolitan area. He’s an avid outdoorsman who loves skiing, hiking, fishing, boating, and just plain having fun. His interests include games, space, technology, physics, cooking (well eating actually), economics, business, internationalism, and team sports. With over thirty years of professional consulting experience, Bob has been exposed to many diverse business models and has gained a sensible approach to life. Bob’s company, WaveCentric is focused on commerce, marketing, and entertainment related products.

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