How the people in your company interact with your customers can bring you more customers or drive them away. That's not shocking. But here's something you may not have thought about: your company policies in dealing with customers could have a bigger effect than how good your employees customer relationship skills are.
One of our art directors stumbled into the perfect illustration of good and bad customer policies Saturday when he drove through what he thought was a small puddle and it turned out to be a well-camouflaged Detroit pothole. The jarring impact flattened both his front tires and bent the rim on one of them. The radically different policies of his insurance company and his tire company created a happy customer and positive recommendations for one and an unhappy customer and negative reviews for the other.
When he told me what happened, I immediately told him he should take it to Belle Tire (a Detroit based tire retailer) because they are really good about fixing your tires for free. You see that's one of their policies I have come across before. If a customer brings in a flat tire and they can fix it – they do it, for free, whether you bought the tire there or not. It's always a nice surprise to find out it didn't cost you anything and you can bet any other tire problems will get taken back to their store as well. And in fact, I have often recommended it to friends in similar situations. Turns out he'd just bought his tires from there 4 months ago.
But before he took his car in, he called his insurance agent to see what they could do – since this was an accident that wasn't his fault and it had done significant damage to his car. When he explained his situation to his agent, the first word out of her mouth was "Unfortunately…" There was nothing they could do. He complained about the fact that he'd been paying them every month for 7 years and the first time he needed them, they were no help.
Next she started telling him about the morning radio show host that she'd listened to that day, talking about the pothole situation and his thoughts. The customer didn't want to hear about that, he wanted to hear what she could do for him. He asked about whether the city was liable for the damage and she listed off a whole bunch of things he could do to look into it. He was frustrated. He thought the company he had been paying all this money to should do at least a little of this work. It wasn't until he threatened to start looking elsewhere for his home and auto insurance that she started coming up with helpful solutions.
The he went to Belle Tire. The fixed both his flat tires and his bent rim while he waited and did it all for free. I think there will be another person extolling the virtues of their company. There are certainly a number of us who heard that story. And the story of how awful the insurance company was.
The difference is one company's policies over the matter are designed to delight the customer and make them happy – even though it cost them employee time doing so. The other company has policies designed to make sure the employee doesn't give up anything from the company until pushed into a corner by the customer.
So, it doesn't matter how good your employees are at dealing with customers. In one case, they're armed with ways to create happiness, recommendations and positive buzz. In the other, they're handcuffed with policies designed to save the company money, no matter how frustrated and irate the customer gets. This not only can result in losing that customer – but losing other potential customers who hear these stories and get negative recommendations.
Take a look at your company policies. Do they delight customers and bring you a better ROI over the customer lifetime? Or do they drive customers away, saving you money now, but creating negative ROI in the long term?