Customer Service – the Magic Words


Have you ever wondered what magic words you could use to get better customer service?

I seem to remember, in the good ole days, my Grandfather telling me about a phrase that worked really well for him. It was “I’ll just take my business elsewhere.” Is there a single company in America that would even bother to respond to something like this? I’m reminded of a Simpson’s episode a few years ago called “Flaming Moe’s” where Homer invented a new drink, and Moe (the Bartender) stole the formula and kept the profits. There is a scene where Homer is saying “You just lost a customer.” Moe is so busy serving Flaming Moe drinks, and the crowd is so noisy that Moe can’t even hear him. After Homer repeats it a few times with no effect, he just leaves in disgust.

I’ve seen a lot of use of “I’m going to tell on you.” This in the sense that if I’m unhappy with your product or service and you don’t remedy the situation, I’ll tell two friends and they will tell two friends (and so on). I’m starting to think this is becoming our generation’s “good ole days” story line. I’ve been keeping up with Alan Weiss’ blog, Contrarian Consulting. He had an issue with Saks Fifth Avenue in New York a while back. In this thread, he talks about not getting much help (he does point out a specific bright spot in the service too) and posts it for the world to see. It’s an understatement to call Alan’s work a well-read blog. A few days later, he posted an update, including a reference to a direct e-mail he sent to the company with no results. Today, he posted another follow-up about a reader who works there who left him a message that has proven difficult to return. If a well known author and general big-whig like Alan can’t get improved service (or even a reasonable response) with the “tell on you” model, how far can you or I get?

Maybe the new mantra is “I’m going to tell on your competition.” Instead of announcing where the deficiency is, perhaps it’s time to tell the world “Hey, I went to Macy’s. Not only were the shirts just as good as the other guys, but the staff made me feel like they were glad to see me.” Note: this is not so much a threat as it is a true course of action. You don’t say it so much to get better service, you use it once you get the service (like a tip). Case in point, there’s a guy at Dillard’s here in Wichita that aways finds me as I approach his department. He’s helpful, pleasant, and now I find myself looking for him when I go in. He’s not an isolated case there.

This leads me to some possible advice for Alan (although I’ sure he’s used this tactic as well); Now that you have pointed out the deficiencies at Saks (which made some great reading, by the way), maybe it’s time for a “Try Sears, where the salespeople care about helping you and you’ll feel so good with that Craftsman wrench in your hand that you won’t care what color your shirt is” post. It’s just a thought…

In the final analysis, maybe there are no magic words for better customer service. I think we are at a point where the best customers find the best service (as Alan did in his post) and if you don’t keep looking, you get what you accept. What does your experience tell you?

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