How to Lose Customers in One Easy Lesson

Today I was talking to my oldest friend in the world, Lori, bemoaning the state of customer service these days.

Why? Because both Customer Service Representatives and their Supervisors are liars.

Who were we talking about in particular? For me it was Kohl's and the Daily Journal. For Lori it was Chico's. For both of us, it decided us that we weren't going to bring our business back to those organizations.

Where did these problems take place? Ah. Now that's a very important part of this story. The problems all took place online and on the phone.

What happened? Without boring you with all the details, what it came down to in all cases was that we:

  1. Made a purchase - both in person and online - with which we subsequently had a problem
  2. Used the various organizations' online and telephone customer service solutions - from "Live Chat" to live people
  3. Eventually spoke with a Supervisor because the Customer Service Reps were unable - or unwilling - to solve the problem for us
  4. Got a promise from the Supervisor that the problem would be solved to our satisfaction
  5. Nothing happened - whether the Supervisor made note of the conversation or not.
What makes these experiences even more ridiculous is that each purchase that Lori and I were discussing was under $100. If the companies involved had a brain cell working, they'd simply empower their Customer Service Reps to be able to solve the problem on first contact for up to that amount.

Why don't they? Because their management is scared. They don't trust their employees - which means, in fact, they don't trust their hiring processes, their training or their managers to supervise.

It's not about the employees. It's about the management systems.

And from a competitive perspective, as a result of those policies and practices, they're actively reducing profitability, shareholder value and market position.

The truly fascinating part - and the one their management would never admit - is that they believe they exist in a vacuum. That they're the only place that a customer would want to go to find whatever it is they offer. That customers have no other choices.

Not only is that thinking wrong, it's short-sighted and, frankly, stupid.

But, based on the way they treat their customers, they don't seem to be worried that their policies leading to customer frustration and dissatisfaction have no impact on their bottom line.

So, when you see that you're losing customers, take a quick look at your customer service policies and practices - because it's a good bet that that's where you're losing them. In the customer experience.

And, as you can see from Lori's and my experience, no matter how long-standing a customer we may have been, it only takes once - and we're not coming back.