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What does great customer service mean to you?

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Customer service is something we all experience on pretty much a daily basis.  Whether it’s in person, by mail, email or a voice call, we have to communicate with businesses most days.  Being a small business owner myself, it’s crucial I provide excellent customer service to ensure my good reputation.  It still amazes me how many large corporations seem to get away with such terrible customer service regularly and still be in business.  Perhaps we sometimes don’t complain effectively or at all to make a difference.  There are some companies that are notorious for giving bad service, yet years later they are still around.

I once refused to buy anything for a whole year from a store after receiving bad customer service!  I can’t remember the exact nature of my enquiry now as it was a few years back, but I remember the man being very rude on the phone and ending the call.  Needless to say I did not want to shop there again.  Unfortunately it is quite a popular High Street store with affordable clothes that I love, so my stand lasted one year and I didn’t purchase anything in this time.  I felt I had made my point, to myself at least, and lost them some profit in the process, however minute and unnoticeable to them!

There have also been instances where I have enquired about the ingredients of certain beauty products or food products and never had a response from a company, meaning I’ve not gone ahead and purchased the item.  A quick response to my tweet and they could have a customer for life.

It’s not all bad

Luckily it’s not all negative.  But unfortunately it does seem that the bad experiences stick in our minds for years to come, yet the good ones fade away much quicker.  I personally find I receive the most excellent customer service from small independent brands.  They have a reputation to build and their income is their livelihood, plus they have a passion, like I do, for their business. Often you are dealing with the owner themselves when you shop with a small indie business, not a disgruntled member of staff who is disconnected from the business itself.

Just recently I purchased a water distiller from a family run business.  I ordered it over Christmas so I wasn’t expecting delivery until after the break.  The first day after New Year they emailed to apologise for the delay in dispatch due to the Christmas holiday.  They let me know the colour I ordered was delayed for one week and gave me the option to choose another colour for immediate dispatch.  I did this as I wasn’t bothered about the colour and they dispatched immediately, emailing me again to give a tracking number.  It felt like such a personalised service and I highly doubt I would have received the same level of attention if I had purchased it from a major retailer.  In fact I doubt I would have had any communication at all.

But then sometimes it is

Before Christmas I had purchased some ingredients from a well-known online health food company.  It was being dispatched in two boxes and when they arrived there was one item missing.  I emailed the company to which I had no response after a few days.  I tweeted the company (a great trick if you want a faster response) and they replied within a day to say the item was out of stock, but being dispatched that day.  I had no note in my parcel or email notification to let me know.  As a customer I just had to assume they had forgotten to pack the item.  It’s a shame the larger companies aren’t more efficient at letting customers know.  I find the larger companies are always making mistakes and have a long wait time for replying to emails or rectifying them.

It’s why I prefer to shop with small businesses as much as possible to receive the best customer service possible as well as support someone who actually cares about their customers.

What makes customer service great?

So what makes customer service great for me?  Good communication, prompt service, honesty, integrity and politeness.

For me it’s that simple.  Getting what I expect, when I expect it and with a smile or at least a please and thank you.  If there is a problem, then I expect it to be solved swiftly.  If a company promises something, then I expect it to be delivered.  If not, then I want it resolved effectively.  I don’t want to feel like I’m being fobbed off, ignored or lied to.  I want to feel valued for my custom.

I honestly believe that’s how all people wish to be treated as a customer and that’s how all businesses should want to treat their customers.