Customer Service Counts


WA Web Awards 2007

You have the prefect web site, it’s the best experience that your customers can have.   Nothing frustrates your users, in fact it’s the opposite, they love your site, it’s a pleasure for them to use your online services.

This is all too common, as more and more businesses start to understand the benefits of embracing a good user experience on their web sites.   Which is a good thing, don’t get me wrong.

As you would expect the more businesses that take up the mantle or UX, the more it will become common place.   This in effect will raise the bar of expectation for the user, so businesses will look for after their distinguishing selling points.  It should then come  down to customer service being the final frontier.   Good old fashion customer service, the thing that seems to have been  forgotten by many businesses of late.

Still with all this focus turning to customer service, it’s funny how you run into examples every day that could be improved:

Web Hosting

About 12 months ago a major web hosting firm had an issue with it’s email servers being overloaded.  Support was alerted to the issue.  This is where the problems started, you see  the support staff required that  you  had to prove you had a problem with the service before they would act on it.  In this case they needed the headers from the missing emails that you had not received.  Now that’s a tall order.

This is little hard to do if you haven’t got the emails as they haven’t arrived yet due to the servers being overloaded.  The official line from the hosting company was to suggest that people request the senders of the emails forward the details.  As you can imagine this is an exercise in total futility.

Finally after people being without email after 4 days, the hosting company realised there was an issue and took action.    Problem is  4 days for any organisation without email is a very long time.

This lack of action,  lead to us moving 80% of our client base off this hosting provider within the first 48 hours.   So what went wrong. Simple they just didn’t listen to fellow professionals that there was an issue, they treated their exclusive resellers as if they were idiots – and no one likes that.

It wouldn’t have taken much to check the load on those mail servers, instead they waited until they got a significant number of complaints before reacting.

To be fair, the event happened again 12 months later, this time they respond within  hours, but it’s too late the damage to the firms reputation has been done.  Sure they learnt from experience, I guess, so did their clients, as their UX was shattered.

Print Bureau

You submit your design PDFs to a print bureau for a standard printing.  This is just a reprint, using files you have used before with other bureaux. You are reassured that they can infact meet the deadline in 10 working days.  All is good.

Fast forward to the deadline.  You ring to assure it is all on track, having abandoned all hope of the bureau responding to emails.   They attempt to find the job, but never ring back.  Over the next few days you attempt to get a status on the job, finally you are told it will be printed the very  next day and delivered on the day after, just in time.

Four days, two days late,  18 working days from submission this simple print job arrives, all wrong and totally unacceptable.    Point in case this was a test of the firm’s service.  Guess they failed a little.

It’s not the botched print job that is the problem its the bad experience in staff communication, the lies, the ignoring of the customer, the treating of the customer like they are not important at all.

So why does it matter

So what can we get out of these cases, overall there are a number of key messages:

  • Don’t ignore or treat your clients like they are not important.  They are not idiots that will just go away when you put the phone down.  In many cases they are more important to you or your clients business  than you are.
  • Be honest at all times and direct with them.  Those little white lies will frankly come back and bite you.
  • It’s easier to fix a problem up front as it occurs than try and repair a learned (bad) experience later on.

You may think, big deal, this has nothing to do with an online user experience, correct it doesn’t directly.  However all these aspects can reflect back to  an online component.   In all the above examples it is the human component that failed.  Now I’m not suggestting that we remove the human compotent one bit.   That would be plain silly.   Still consideration needs to be given to the reminding us all  that the customer experience goes way beyond the web site.   Otherwise all that money and effort that has be expended on the web site UX is just a waste of time.

It’s simple a good customer experience beyond the web site goes a long way.   Pity people are forgetting this.

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  1. Great article. It’s a topic that is written about a lot around the web and in business books.

    With the examples you used in your post, I’d put money on the fact that those businesses have a mission statement or something with a top line that says “Our customers are the most important part of our business”.
    Customer service is definitely judged on actions and not vanilla talk from the CEO or Managers. People know what you want to hear and can tell you the same thing, but the proof is whether they action it.

    One business that I’ve been reading about a lot lately that I think gets this right is Freshbooks ( I’m not a customer or have anything to do with them, but I read how they make all new employees do their first 3 months with the company in customer service roles. Making sure that all new employees know that the company puts customer service above all else. Not just talk, but action.

    I think is pretty well known for this sort of stuff as well.

    Anyway, interesting topic, and good read.


  2. @Craig I know years ago some companies used to make all the executive and managers work in customer service for one week of the year. after six months it completely changed the culture and customer service of the company for the better. Not seem that being done in a long time however.

  3. Customer Service Count is really true. Don’t ignore or treat your clients like they are not important and treat them as your bestfriend.

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