There are few things more frustrating to me than spending 20 minutes explaining my problem to someone in “Customer Service” only to be bounced to another person, explaining everything all over again, and then being bounced to yet another person. What these companies really need is an “I Am Annoyed” Department to call AFTER you speak to their “Customer Service” Department.
A few months ago I decided it was time to cancel our home telephone service. We rarely use the land line and it was an opportunity to save a little money. I was prepared to make a 15 minute phone call in between folding laundry, cleaning dishes, making lunch, and playing referee with my two boys. Unfortunately, my telephone company didn’t offer an “Easy Button.” Instead, I became their Ping-Pong ball and was bounced to six different people (email, telephone, chat) over a period of 3 weeks before finally getting through to a person who would eventually cancel my telephone service. I am not making this stuff up!
This sad faced Ping-Pong ball eventually posted her experience on Facebook, a ratings and reviews site, shared it with many friends, and is now posting this blog. Is this a typical problem in business today? Yes. Can it be solved? Probably not—but it can be improved. It begins with preparing, strengthening, and empowering the first point of contact.
Here are three ways you can reduce the number of annoyed customers at your community.
Hire Good People vs. Nice People
I read a very interesting article last week in YAHOO Finance “How to Hire Good People Instead of Nice People” that reminded me of my telephone experience. Thinking back, all of the people who I spoke with during this 3 week period were nice. In fact, one particular young man was very pleasant and while he tried very hard to be helpful he ended up annoying me more than anyone else. He was nice but not good.
Who is taking care of your customer? Are they nice but annoying?
Here are a few very interesting points from this article:
- Good and nice are not the same thing. The opposite of good is bad. The opposite of nice is unlikeable. Nice people care if you like them; good people care about you. Nice people stretch the truth; good people don’t. If you tell a nice person to do something bad, they might do it because they do not want to upset you; a good person will refuse to do it.
- Nice people will allow you to hire them even if they know they are not among your best candidates; a good person won’t let you hire them unless that is what is best for your company.
- People reflect what you project and expect. If you advertise that you need a confident, experienced leasing consultant, those are the people who will apply. If you advertise you need a “people person”, those are the people who will apply. If you run both ads simultaneously, you’ll get the same people applying. You influence the kind of people they become even before you meet.
Brook Allen, the author of this article, went on to share an ad he posted on Craigslist for an Assistant “Wanted: Assistant Who Writes Well and Loves Puzzles.” It is a must read and certainly makes you rethink the entire interview/hiring process and laugh too.
Could his approach reduce the amount of annoyed customers? Maybe
Why do we often place the least experienced employees with little authority in front of the customer first? Then we require this person of little authority to work on the weekend when most customers come to the office with their problems. The result is a lot of sticky notes and files placed on the manager’s desk to deal with Monday morning—the day when most customers go back to work and share their problems with their friends at the office.
We reward experienced employees with weekends off, an office in the back, or a seat in the “corporate office/ivory tower” to do paperwork.
We play ping-pong as we bounce the customer and their problems back and forth between various titles and offices.
In my experience the customers who get special treatment from the supervisor will come back later and only want to speak with a supervisor and no one else. Will this improve customer satisfaction? I don’t think so. Eventually, what you end up with are supervisors serving all our customers and a defeated front line employee! Who has time for that?
- Provide your leasing team with the training and authority they need to take care of customers without constantly asking for approval. This will help you improve customer satisfaction and keep your most capable employees loyal and growing.
- Loosen the reins and trust your team to do the right thing at the right time.
- Encourage change. Move the supervisor mindset into the role of educator and encourager rather than controller and dominator.
Brainstorm “Real” Problems
The longer I work in this industry the more I realize that there is really nothing new under the sun. Residents more often than not deal with the same set of problems that they did 20 years ago—they simply have different names!
- Brainstorming a list of customer problems along with their solutions can be a great training tool for employees. Creating case studies out of real problems and discussing what you could have done differently can make a great mini training session at your next weekly staff meeting.
- Communicate both boundaries and authority to your employees. This will give them the confidence they need to assist your customers effectively.
The next time one of your customers is played like a Ping-Pong ball and is forced to go beyond the front line to get what they want from a supervisor consider the message that it is sending to all parties involved. Make it a priority to eliminate the need for an “I Am Annoyed” Department at your company.
Do you have a story to share? We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.