The principles are easy: set the right expectations, then meet or exceed them and your clients will be happy at the least, and become champions for your product and/or company if you’re really awesome.
So why do so many companies fail at providing stellar customer service? Because they set expectations to exceed what they are capable of delivering upon and unable to communicate appropriately. Unfortunately I am experiencing this first hand with a company presently and will use them as an example of how simple it can be to create negative clients instead of building champions:
In November, 2013 I ordered a product which I thought too good to be true: the 10 year hoodie. For twice what I normally spend on a hoodie ($100 versus my normal; $45) I figured that if it lasted twice as long, I’d have come out even, and any longer then I’d be truly sold on the product. Since my hoodies last me about one year, I figured a ten-year hoodie was a pipe dream but worth the gamble as it came with a repair guarantee. So, I clicked checkout and waited…
When I received delivery, I was impressed with the quality of construction and comfort of the fabric. It was soft, but sturdy, with key reinforcements to ensure longevity. So, in mid November I put it into service as my ‘work’ hoodie, wearing it daily at home as I worked my day job. I never wore it outside, so it only saw desk time and couch time as the main activities. Which is to say it wasn’t put through any heavy-duty use that would be adversely rough on a garment.
You will then understand my surprise that after only two months it began to show signs of wear (shown below) which lead to failure after only two and a half months. So, I contacted the company on March 5th with the following image to ask about the process for warranty/guarantee repairs.
I’ll point out here that my expectations were set early on with their 10 year guarantee. I expected the hoodie to last at least a year with the same wear as my normal, less expensive hoodies provide. As such, my initial contact was already taking damage to my ability to be a happy consumer and really champion their product. That said, the support I received was solid and confidence inspiring with good communication, and they sent me a shipping label so there was no cost to me to return the garment for repairs. They indicated that when received, they’d provide an estimated time for repairs and ship it back once complete.
So, on March 6th, I shipped it off and watched the tracking info update until it was delivered to the company on March 12th. I then promptly forgot about it until March 28th, when I realized I’d not been contacted upon receipt and after they determined how long the repairs would take. A quick message out to them on the 28th was returned on the 31st with a note indicating they had indeed received it and that they hoped to see all repairs ship back out by the end of that week. Forgiving the 2.5 day reply time and the fact that I had to proactively ask them for an update, I was pleased to know that my hoodie was expected to ship out by April 4th…
And here I sit, on April 17th still awaiting any sort of communication, let alone delivery of my repaired hoodie. I have sent off another request for an update earlier this morning, but as yet have no indication of a reply.
To recap here, two failures have occurred: failure to communicate based on the expectations which the company set for me, and failure to deliver the repaired product within the time-frame as communicated by the company. What could have turned me from an annoyed client to a champion? Simple and easy communication. Meet the expectations the company set as the baseline, execute on the guarantee as outlined, and communicate any delays that may prevent meeting those expectations on a proactive schedule. How to turn my annoyance into a lost customer with no hope of converting me back into a paying client? Fail to deliver on your promises and don’t communicate unless poked and prodded to do so. Sad really, since in the grand scheme this is really a minor thing, and with so very little effort the company could have turned a minor issue into an opportunity to make me, as their customer, a champion for their products. All that would be needed to build me into a champion would have been timely communication, and delivering a repaired product when indicated. It really doesn’t take much to make me happy.
*edited to add*- Immediately after publishing this post, I received an update from the customer service person with whom I’ve been working. It seems that after the initial repair, an inspection highlighted some other missed repairs (not sure how that happened since I provided, as requested, an explanation of all repairs needed) and was sent back to the repair cycle which is now expected to complete Monday. The rep indicated they would be in touch to confirm shipping at that time and was apologetic for the delay. So, they are trying, at least… but we’ll see what happens after Monday passes.
At this point, when my repaired hoodie is delivered (and hopefully it will both be delivered and repaired), I’ll close the books on this company and never have any interaction with them again. Even if my hoodie requires more guarantee repair work, I won’t be wasting my time with them again. Likewise, I also won’t mention the name of the company since doing so will only amplify their share of voice, even if said voice is negative. I’d rather they fade into obscurity and be forgotten.
A 10 year guarantee you say? Yes, it is indeed too good to be true…. at this point even a 6 month guarantee would have been too good to be true. Caveat Emptor.