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An excerpt of a BrandBridge radio programme I presented on Africa UK Radio.

It is a known idea that customer is king, customer is always right and customers need to be treated well. No doubt this is very important, the customers are the lifeline of the business, if they don’t exist, Businesses will cease to exist. No one will patronise them. So therefore to keep business, you keep customers, treating them nice.

However, we are all humans, things happens, and we just have to deal with it, accept responsibilities when customer services goes wrong. Mistakes will surely happen. It is the way we deal with it that matters.

Example will be a past incident with Natwest Bank whose customers can not withdraw money from the ATM machine because of technical problem; last year too, they had such problems because they were upgrading their systems.

Staffs call in sick, trains are delayed, staffs cannot come to work and you are understaffed, the customer service for that day will be stressed.

So what do we do when things goes wrong, when customers are shouting on phone about their deliveries being delayed. How do you explain to them that it was an accident on the road, which was beyond your control that caused the delay?

How about if a faulty product was sold? The company may promise refund or replacement but how easy will it be to get the refund.

Heard a story of a man who wants to buy 43 pieces of flowers for his wife, he called the florist who decides to sell each flowers at unit prices meanwhile the customer hopes to get discount, at least buying at dozen price but the Sale Assistant could not make spot on decision, she said she needs to wait for her manager. The Man left for another shop that could offer a better deal and never came back to the first shop.

Information is very important when dealing with Customers. You don’t have to appear disorganised or irresponsible when you can offer basic information about what you are offering.

That is where training comes in.

The role of the promise fulfillers needs to be taken serious by the promise makers.

Someone up there writes the policies and procedures for refunds, making a promise that if a customer returns their product after 30 days they can still change it but those in the store actually thinks its 27 days.

The promises are not aligned and you expect the customers not to make fuse about the issue?

Information needs to be cascaded down to those front line staffs.

Front line staffs should be trained to provide information and be able to assist with customers queries, this will help reduce complains and it won’t have to be escalated to a regulatory agencies.

However, if things still go wrong, you just have to accept responsibilities. Remember Customer is King and they are always right.

Good news travel but Bad news explodes.

When there is a complain, you need to show the empathy, be willing to listen and ready to provide assistance.

With the power of social media, your brand may get the wrong attention, people complaining about your products and discouraging others, their friends and families not to patronise you.

You can imagine what effect that will have on your brand.

Before customers may have to keep mute about bad services they are experiencing, they might right to newspaper or make phone calls; but 140 characters on Twitter mean a lot these days.

An example is LA Fitness who refused to cancel the contact of a pregnant wife and a jobless husband, the issue was wild spread on Twitter to the extent that some wanted to pay for the family and even cancel their own membership subscription. They were so stubborn to risk their PR with less than 1000 pounds.

At the end they finally waived the subscription fee, how will it have being if they had done that right from the start of the issue?

These days, most brands have different twitter accounts to blow their trumpets, tell everyone what they are doing and another for customer service which is being monitored and are willing to help.

When you are aware of a customer service going wrong, you offer to make investigations, to find out what went wrong and how it can be prevented next time.

An example will be TESCOs after the Horse Meat Saga, they know they had made a mistake by not testing their meat and therefore the customer has lost faith in them. They don’t trust them again.

They had to do their own investigations to find out where the meats were coming from.

TESCO had to apologise, put up press release in Newspapers, did all sort of press campaign to recreate that perception about their brand, and they assured their customers that things are being done in the right way now.

When you take responsibilities, you need to take action. You need to show that you are ready to make amends and you will.

Offer the customer the chance to make things right.

A company wrongly posted a book to their customer, while they acknowledge that they have made the mistake, they send him the right book and told him to keep the one that was wrongly sent. They were sorry for the inconveniences but compensated the customers for their error.

For customers who have chosen to give feedback and make you know that they were not satisfied by your customers, they are doing your brand good. Helping you shape it well to offer a great service next time.

Take note of their concerns and work on it.

May be there has being a staff who treat the customers bad, most people may not want to complain or make any issue out of it, they just want to get their goods and get out of your stores but the one who chose to see the Manager and make a complain about the staff is doing the brand a great good.

It is left for the Manager to either remove the staff from front line service or send her for training.

You need to work on the relationship with your customers, let your critics’ turns to your crusaders.

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