You may remember a recent blog about my frustration with bad Customer Service.  It’s one thing I really believe there’s no excuse for in business, so I’m disappointed to report that O2 didn’t take the opportunity I gave them to sort things out.
Bear with me here, as this is not just a personal rant, but an example of how a supposed market leader has failed to provide the most basic of customer service.  An example for business owners of how not to treat your customers and a reminder to always look at the bigger picture.
It’s all too easy to be fooled by a good social media presence and after my last blog, O2 were quick to contact me and publically declare that they’d help me resolve my issue. I was thrilled – after all, I’ve been a loyal customer for over ten years and raved about them to family and friends.  My husband also has a contract with them and I was planning to buy my daughter’s first phone from them too.  We spend £70+ a month with O2 already and in short, I would have thought that we’re the sort of customers they’d be keen to keep.
At last, I thought, my issue will finally be resolved. Hallelujah!
I wasn’t expecting too much.  The ideal solution that I would have been happy with was very simple.  Having worked in customer services myself, I believe this basic formula works very well and applies to all customer facing businesses:
1. Acknowledge. To recognise that there is an issue and, if appropriate, accept fault.  Denying that there is a problem is nothing short of calling your customer a liar and is bound to leave a sour taste.
2.Listen.  Each customer feels the way they do for a reason – they would not have complained otherwise.  Whilst the majority of complaints are authentic, a small percentage are unfounded – regardless of which of these 2 categories it falls into, responding professionally and courteously is a must as your reputation rests on it.  There’s no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ response to a complaint.  Automated responses should have long stopped at the point of complaint.
3.Apologise. Words cost nothing – written or verbal.  An apology can get companies out of all sorts of scrapes, if put across in the right manner – genuinely.  In fact an apology can turn a bad situation into a very positive bit of PR for a company.  I’ve seen it happen.  Make your customers remember the way you dealt with the problem, instead of remembering the problem itself.
4.Make it personal. Factor in your history with that customer.  How long have they been a customer?  How profitable are they to your company?  What’s their ‘customer lifetime value’?  If you turn this situation around, what future business may you get from them?  Are they a frequent complainer / time waster or is this a one off?  If a one off, even more reason to take it seriously.  Open your eyes and see the bigger picture.
Unfortunately, in my situation O2 practiced none of these basic rules of customer service.
So after almost 12 months of not being able to receive incoming calls, retrieve voicemails or send picture messages, hours of calls and emails trying to resolve the issue, denial of any problem on the part of O2, involvement of Ombudsman, I am poorer in time, poorer in money and quite frankly exhausted with the whole situation!
Do you think I will ever return to O2 in the future?
Do you think my husband will be renewing his contract with O2 when it comes up for renewal?
Do you think I will be buying my daughter’s new phone contract from O2 as planned?
Erm, let me think about that for a minute…
Let the way O2 deal with complaints be a lesson to every business.  Not only is it about practising the key points above – acknowledging, listening, apologising and personalising – but it’s about really meaning it.  Turning it around into a positive experience for the customer.  Goodwill can take years to build up.  Short sighted customer service is the quickest way to lose it.  And the knock on effect can be just as destructive.
We’d be interested to hear your views on how to provide customer service that rocks.