Just because you’ve always done something one way, it doesn’t mean it's the best way forever. The world is constantly evolving, is your service keeping up?
When a guy from a fencing company sliced my wing mirror off by mistake, I wasn’t expecting the experience of getting it fixed to be anything to write home about. Just contact them, get it booked in to do the work, get it fixed, right? Wrong! Here's what happened:
The customer journey
- August 8th - Called fencing company, owner asked for quotes to repair the damage
- August 9th - Quotes from two garages emailed as requested
- August 12th - Owner emails to say broker is now dealing with it
- August 12th - Broker emails: preferred garage has been instructed, they will contact me
- August 16th - Ask broker for update and am told to book direct with garage myself
- August 19th - Ask broker for name of contact at garage to confirm instruction
- August 21st - Ask broker for name again after no response
- August 29th - Arrive at garage, neither broker or insurance company has contacted them
- August 29th - I have to pay the £700 to get the car fixed and wait to be reimbursed!
Are you using the right messaging and tone of voice?
The email sent at step 3 was a missed opportunity for the fencing company to show they cared. Any consumer receiving an email containing the words below isn't likely to view the company in question particularly favourably.
I understand that our brokers have been in contact with you and have admitted liability and authorised repairs to your vehicle. As far as we as a company are concerned that is the end of the matter...- Owner of fencing company
Are you using the right language in your emails to customers? Automated emails are usually the culprits but as you can see from above, personally sent emails can also destroy a positive brand voice.
The automated ones are a good place to start. Print them all out and read them out loud. How would you feel if you received one as a customer? If you’re not sure, give them to someone else to read.
Does your process have holes?
Around the time of step 5, I received a muffled voicemail from a company I didn’t recognise asking for bank details. I ignored it, assuming it was either a scam or a no-win, no-fee ambulance chaser. A second, similar call prompted me to email the broker, but he couldn’t shed any light on it, so I stuck with my original assumption.
As I later found out, this was the insurance company calling, wanting to transfer money for the work required. How did the broker not know this? If money had been transferred on August 16th, the whole experience would have been seamless!
When was the last time you tested your customer service process end to end, including involvement with external suppliers? Often when steps are added or taken away, and the whole process isn’t retested, it can result in it being broken without you knowing. The first you'll hear about it is when you lose a customer.
Do you keep in touch?
Four days might not seem long to you but it's an age for a consumer who is waiting for you to progress something for them. You may go through this process a thousand times a day, but they don’t. They need to know what’s going on and what’s going to happen next.
Communicating timescales helps manage expectations. It cuts down on incoming enquiries and keeps customers happy. The best strategy is little and often. If your processes are holey like this one, you can’t keep control of the situation and then you run the risk of errors being made.
Regular contact is key to customer retention. How often do you contact your customers?
Do you do what you say you're going to?
In this case, the broker's mistake was that he didn't follow this through. To anyone outside of his organisation "instructing" work means that it has been organised or, at the very least, the party carrying it out has been contacted. Despite emailing confirming this had happened, it had, in fact, not.
It’s easy to let things slip, especially if you’re promising that someone else is going to do something. Do you find out if they did and if not, make sure that they do?
When you get it wrong, do you own it?
True customer service is demonstrated when things go wrong. It's about how you put them right: your attitude, the solutions you present and the speed at which the issue is resolved. Over the years, I've seen some absolute clangers and my advice for coming out of a mishap relatively unscathed is:
- Never lie. While on-site, I called the broker who eventually said that the garage was instructed by fax. The garage doesn’t have a fax.
- Be consistent. When speaking to the garage owner, the broker said the instruction was sent by email. The garage didn’t receive an email.*
- Find a resolution. Suggest solutions. Give the client a choice. The only solution here was that I pay myself and wait to be reimbursed in 5-7 working days.
- Follow up. Once an agreed solution has been found, see it through to the end. I've not heard from the fencing company, the broker or the insurance company.
- Say thank you. Whether you say it, gift it or write it make sure you show your gratitude for the understanding the customer or prospective customer has shown. As above!
*In fact, if the broker had contacted the garage at all, he would have known that their policy is not to deal directly with insurance companies. Money needed to be transferred to me in advance of the work being done. We would, again, have had a seamless process.