The lost art of customer service

I've reached the stage of my life when it infuriates me when people don't bother to return calls or emails or follow up on enquiries.

Having spent two decades in communications it puzzles me why companies spend millions advertising their products but then make it so difficult for customers to actually buy those products.

I recently tried to open a Tax-Free Savings Account with a well-known insurance company that has now ventured into the retail banking field. Turns out they have a pretty favourable interest rate, the best of the bunch apparently.

I thought it would be a simple exercise to open an account, considering I already have medical aid and car insurance with this same company. Fool that I am! After a couple of tries I gave up. Apparently the easiest way to do it is to download the app.

This seems to be the 'go to' response to any enquiry these days: "Have you got the app?" If you respond in the negative, they instantly seem to lose interest. Why has this become the 'end-all and be-all' way of interfacing with the world? What about giving people another way in, like, I don't know... through your boring old website, for example? Why does it HAVE to be the miniaturised version?

Are we getting to the point where everything will be handled via apps? I find that somewhat disturbing. Why should smartphone companies have so much control over our lives? 

The other bugbear is companies who don't call back. Or make it so difficult for customers to contact them, with telephone menus that don't work or are incredibly complicated. Why are you so scared to communicate directly with your customers? Do you not know that human contact is still the best way to close sales and win loyal customers?

And if you're asked to submit a quote, don't dally with your response -- get it done ASAP. People can lose interest very easily.

I sometimes dream about starting a company that trains frontline staff in the art of using the telephone. Or just in simple customer relations. It seems to be a dying art. Perhaps it's time to take some of the big bucks you pay your agencies and put it to work training your frontline staff. They are your best ambassadors, after all. Or should be.

Remember: it all starts with returning that phone call or email -- promptly!   


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