Customer Service Example: Meet your customers where they are

Yesterday I emailed the company that makes the thermostat used in our house. It’ s big company, a major player in this business.  Still I did not expect a fast response. I guess I never do (unless the company I’m emailing is called Zappos).

I was surprised to get a reply email from the company in less than 24 hours. (Consumer appliance manufacturers are not known for being exceptionally speedy with their email customer service.) So I was pleased. But my good feeling only lasted several seconds because the email they sent me said this:

“Please call the technical support line at 1-800-xxx-xxxx.”

No “good morning Mr. Stirtz” or “Thank you for contacting us Mr. Stirtz”. No greeting or salutation of any kind. And no name either. Just the simple, cold instruction to call the impersonal toll-free number.As far as I knew this email came straight from a robot.

I guess this was helpful (in a weird way) because they had no phone number on their website. But it felt odd to have to email customer service only to be told, via email, that I had to call them on the phone.

There are two lessons from this simple customer service example:

1. Put your customer support number on your website.

If your customer service staff are unable or unwilling to help people via email then why have an email option. Forcing people to email you just so you can tell them to call a phone number wastes time and makes the customer take a extra, unnecessary step. (And it irritates some of us.)

2. If you offer email as a contact option then offer it as a service option.

By not posting a phone number on the website they force customers to email them. This is fine if you prefer to get support via email, as I often do. But then you need to offer real support via email. Telling a customer to call a phone number is not offering them service or support.

The real lesson here is: Meet your customers where they are, not where you want them to be.

From my perspective, this company has built their customer service according to their needs. Or they have not bothered to experience their own service as their customers do. Because it’s inconvenient and cumbersome.

As a customer, it makes me wonder what other aspects of their business are focused on serving the company rather than their customers. If I bought a product and something went wrong, how will they handle it? If their priority is to meet their needs first, I might get stuck. Or I might have to fight just to get what I paid for.

That’s a perfect way to drive customers away. And a lousy way to grow your business.

The article was written by Kevin Stirtz