Like good customer service, bad customer service has a way of getting known in the world, through something I think of as the ripple effect. It’s like skimming a pebble over the surface of the water and watching the rings spread. Satisfied customers tell other satisfied customers, and the ripple of good will continues. And the same is true of a dissatisfied customer.

Recently, I received a call from the National Post, one of the Canadian news publications, to which I subscribe. They wanted to let me know that I needed to renew my subscription, but this year the rate hike was going to be about 65% more. As you can imagine, I was rather perturbed. I’ve been a long time subscriber of the Post. Initially, the rate they offered was very reasonable. Even with the slight increase each year, I was alright with it.

I understand that newspapers are in decline and that they are having trouble with their subscription numbers. And as a business owner, I appreciate that inflation and other costs create the need to boost prices. But a 65% increase? I think not.

Of course, I contacted the customer service department. When I finally managed to speak with a manager (The first representative I spoke with would not connect me with someone higher up.), I told him I understand that they need to increase subscription rates. But, I was not prepared to pay a 65% increase. When he refused to budge, I informed him that the Post was offering a 40% discount for 6 months, for new online subscribers. Surely, they would do the same for a loyal customer, like me. No dice! He would not budge.

You may have guessed. I cancelled my National Post subscription. The incident irked me so that I shared my dismay with other people. It also made me think about the key take away for business, which always has been and always will be, “customer/client satisfaction.” It’s something I work hard at doing in my own business, The Language Lab.

Just recently, a client suggested that she’d really appreciate if I could make some adjustments to the online course, in which her employees were enrolled. Of course, I accommodated her request, gratis. It’s just good business sense to put your customer/client, first. It’s also not that difficult.

Good customer service really boils down to the following two key points:
1.) Listen:You have to hear what your client is saying, in order to understand their needs.

2.) Respond: Figure out what you can do to fulfill your client’s needs, or to at least negotiate a mutually acceptable compromise.

As someone once said to me when I was happy with the service he provided, “You are my billboard!” We are all each other’s billboards, and the last thing you want to do is advertise “Stay Away!”

Of course, it is true you can’t satisfy all of your customers, all of the time. But the way you handle customer dissatisfaction can really help to build customer loyalty. For example, have a look at Michael Hill’s online essay, Customer Complaints Can be Great or Bad for Business, to see a break down of how it works. Or, for an immediate idea of the impact, take a look at this excellent infographic, How Customer Service is Impacting Your Bottom Line and Online Reputation. Among other things, it points out that around 80 percent of customers are more likely to work with a business again, after having received good service. Frankly, that’s a lot more compelling than being told that your subscription rate just went up 65 %! (And more than that, being told the customer service department really just doesn’t care.)

For more information on how you can improve your business communications or to share your customer service story, contact us at The Language Lab .

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