1. Business

How to NOT Handle a Customer Service Problem

This story is a great lesson in what not to do when it comes to customer service.
The short version scenario goes like this:
I haven’t been in a Kmart in years. In fact, I’m not sure where a store even is down here. However, we got a request for the newest baby in the family for a particular kind of play table. Sheila found it online at Kmart.com and ordered it on December 4. It was plenty of time to get it here for Christmas and then get it to our family in Ohio.

Well, it never came. Calling on the 21st, I spoke to Kmart’s “excellent” customer service people in the Philippines. They were useless, but suggested I wait one more day since they did show a UPS label had been printed. The next day I called again and got lucky this time with an office in Alabama. The rep there couldn’t tell me anything either, but we were at least able to cancel the order.

I then filed a protest with American Express, which they promptly put through. Kmart had charged the order to my wife’s card the minute it was placed. Later, I received a letter from Amex telling me the full credit hadn’t been put through due to Kmart.com charging for one of three reasons – a partial return, restocking fee or a shipping and handling fee. Remember, they never shipped the product.

This is hardly a serious challenge, but there are some great lessons to be had for every business owner.
• Try to handle as much of the problem on the first call as you can. The Philippines crew had no access to any information, and the best they could do was contact a distribution center via email.
• If you have staff, give them the ability/authority to resolve problems. Don’t make the customer call back for a follow-up.
• Know your inventory, shipping times and charges.  I was told this was being shipped by a third party and not directly from Kmart. There are few things worse than dealing with somebody representing a company who knows virtually nothing about the products and procedures they’re supposed to represent.

Great service is one of your strongest tools in building your brand. When you do have a challenge, work to fix it as quickly as possible. Deliver things on time and as promised. Most important of all, remember you’ll never lose if you exceed client expectations.