I am a loyal customer. My suppliers help me build my business and enjoy my busy life. I recommend them enthusiastically to others, buy from them repeatedly and rarely challenge them on price. But there comes a point…
Every month I ship packages to customers around the world. My courier company had a “bonus program” to encourage and reward customer loyalty. Two years ago the program offered a cash discount for volume shipping. Last year the program was changed to provide shopping and dining vouchers instead of discounts. A new approach – fair enough and still a good example of customer service skills.
At the end of the year I was clearing out files and realized I had never received a single dining or shopping voucher. I contacted the courier company and was told, “Since you already get a special corporate rate, you are no longer eligible for the bonus.”
That was odd and not necessarily the best example of customer service skills. The company never mentioned this when they first changed the terms of the program. In fact, exercising good customer service skills they had sent me a detailed letter describing the new program benefits, and promised to send me a monthly statement.
Then the representative said, “But if you like, your shipping volume is high enough to that we can increase your corporate discount rate from 26% to 40%.”
That was odd, too. My shipping volume has been fairly consistent for several years. Now very curious, I asked, “When did I qualify for a 40% discount rate?”
The representative studied my account and replied, “About two years ago.”
That was more than odd; that was upsetting. For two years I had qualified for a lower shipping rate, but the courier company never told me. Then they disqualified me from their new bonus program, and never informed me. This was not an example of exceptional customer service skills in action.
I said to the representative: “My loyalty to your company is at risk. You folks need to do some recovery, and fast.”
The representative’s response has been gradual and measured. There has been no surge of beneficial activity, no act of generosity or special gesture, no personalized effort to reclaim lost goodwill or any other exercise in good customer service skills. I asked twice in writing for the name and e-mail address of the General Manager. My requests have been ignored and their customer service skills lacking.
If you were me, what would your reaction be? Here’s mine: I opened a new account with their competition.
Key Learning Points
Your loyal customers deserve your best available deals, discounts and customer service skills. Don’t ever take them for granted. You may think you can charge them more for a while, and only change later “if they find out.” But there’s a problem with that approach: when they do find out, they may not want to be your customer any more.
Furthermore, if something happens and your loyal customer feels burned, abused or taken for granted, you’d better hustle to set things right! Just “fixing the problem” won’t be enough. You need to take fast action and great care of the person who feels the problem and use your best customer service skills.
Do a rigorous review of your special pricing, packages and promotions. Make sure you offer your best customers the best you have to offer. This is just an exercise in sound customer service skills.
Review your service recovery plans, policies and implementation. Loyal customers are worth retaining. Short-term costs, effort or embarrassment are a small price to pay for long-term purchases, profits and support.