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Do Your Customers Get Tricks or Treats?

A cautionary tale about how not to service the customer.

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Halloween is nearly at hand as I write this, which if you have young children as I do is a BIG deal. It’s a time to vicariously have great fun through their mask-covered eyes with candy, costumes and scary things. Truth be told, as a sweet-toothed horror movie buff, it gives me a kick as well. However, something much more frightening that cannot be disguised nor is the least bit amusing continues to haunt most companies: shoddy customer service.

Yes, I have discussed this topic before, but it is HUGE and ironically only continues to become more critical as a competitive differentiator while at the same time seemingly a more glaring deficiency. As research has shown and many owners and operators reading this right now likely believe — and will convincingly tell you — their company already delights its customers. The data shows they can’t all be right, and in fact there often exists a vast chasm between management claims or perception and customer reality.

The way to overcome that is by making every employee who touches a customer accountable and also empowered to provide what is needed as quickly and easily as possible. Those frontline folks also need to be properly trained, motivated and rewarded as well. But the most critical piece is continuously getting feedback from customers and — even more vital than compiling it — converting the information into actionable change. I’m betting if some of you were flies on the wall during your company’s phone and in-person customer interactions your hair would stand on end. Those firms that allow subcontractors to represent their business should be especially cautious.

This brings me back to my spooky theme and the following blood-curdling tale of shockingly poor service. Although it is not about a security company, it does involve a similar type of installation-based business. I had called my satellite provider for a receiver upgrade on the family room TV to enable using an external hard drive as a DVR. You would think this an extremely simple process, but in this case you’d be wrong.

The two satellite technicians required either an Ethernet or landline phone connection to set up the new HD receiver. Well there was no Ethernet in that room or nearby; neither was there a phone jack. So they attempted to run Cat-3 wire some 50 feet across my house to the closest phone jack. However, since their cable was not long enough they retrieved a second extension from their truck. It was still short, so I supplied my own adapter and a third extension cable.

So there it was, this makeshift wire running through most of my house, over, across and through assorted obstacles, just to activate my “state-of-the-art” high-def receiver. Once they finally got it squared away, I asked the senior tech about connecting the hard drive. My inquiry was met with a blank stare. Not only was he totally unaware of my interest in using an external drive as a DVR, he knew nothing of the capability to do so.

I had to explain it to him, based on a feature I had been using on another TV the past two years, and then he watched in amazement as I got it to work. “Ain’t that something? I just may do that myself!” he exclaimed. This from a lead tech who said he had worked for the satellite provider for 12 years.

The clincher was when he informed me his employer would soon call to make sure everything was fine, and attempted to coerce me into providing positive customer feedback. He revealed he was a contractor and how much money he gets docked for every type of issue, and that his wife did not take kindly to that.

Still so confident about how your company is being represented to the world? Make sure by next Halloween your customers feel like they got their favorite chocolate bar and not a rotten apple from you.

Article Topics
Business Management · Between Us Pros · Customer Feedback · Customer Service · All Topics

About the Author
Scott Goldfine
Scott joined SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in October 1998 and has distinguished himself by producing award-winning, exemplary work. His editorial achievements have included blockbuster articles featuring major industry executives, such as Tyco Electronic Products Group Managing Director Gerry Head; Protection One President/CEO Richard Ginsburg; former Brink’s Home Security President/CEO Peter Michel; GE Interlogix President/CEO Ken Boyda; Bosch Security Systems President/CEO Peter Ribinski; and former SecurityLink President/CEO Jim Covert. Scott, who is an NTS Certified alarm technician, has become a respected and in-demand speaker at security industry events, including presentations at the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) Annual Meeting; California Alarm Association (CAA) Summer and Winter Conferences; PSA Security Network Conference; International Security Conference and Exhibition (ISC); and Security Industry Association (SIA) Forum. Scott often acts as an ambassador to mainstream media and is a participant in several industry associations. His previous experience as a cable-TV technician/installer and running his own audio company -- along with a lifelong fascination with electronics and computers -- prepared Scott well for his current position. Since graduating in 1986 with honors from California State University, Northridge with a degree in Radio-Television- Film, his professional endeavors have encompassed magazines, radio, TV, film, records, teletext, books, the Internet and more. In 2005, Scott captured the prestigious Western Publisher Maggie Award for Best Interview/Profile Trade for "9/11 Hero Tells Tale of Loses, Lessons," his October 2004 interview with former FDNY Commander Richard Picciotto, the last man to escape the Ground Zero destruction alive.
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Between Us Pros, Customer Feedback, Customer Service