I Hated Everyone’s Customer Service Department—Until Yesterday

Richard Hatch | May 13, 2008 · 1 comment | B2B Marketing

As a rule, I hate calling customer service. Almost anybody’s customer service department. Until yesterday. Yesterday I called a customer service representative at Grand Rapids Chair Company. No, I didn’t need chairs. Actually, I didn’t even need customer service. I needed to get in touch with my daughter, a customer service representative there. Of course I didn’t mind leaving a message, and I’ll bet their customers are probably fine when they occasionally get voice mail too. Okay, and all biases aside, her voice mail said something like, “ Thanks for calling Grand Rapids Chair. Leave me a message and the name of your favorite 80s rock band, and I’ll get back to you shortly.”

Later, I asked her about her message. She told me it’s something they always do. They change up their voice mail messages every few weeks, but every customer service rep has something creative and fun included in their recorded voice mail messages. Seems to fit really nice with the overall perceptions I have of their company and brand. Essentially, they design and manufacture chairs, bar stools, tables, etc. for the hospitality industry—restaurants, bars, hotels, etc. Trendy designs. Urban designs. Upscale designs. Custom designs. Lots of cool stuff.

For me, the unexpected message really resonated and fit the brand personality. Might be a little out there for some B2B manufacturers, but not them. Seems like a fun company to do business with. But what really struck me was how they do such a nice job putting their brand to work for them at one of the most visible and important customer touch points—customer service—and for other companies that don’t do it right, a vulnerable customer touch point. Not to mention the elevated importance of customer service in B2B where relationships often strongly influence purchase decisions.

I asked her how customers’ react. She laughed and said some are momentarily caught off-guard, but most callers almost always have a good time with it. Most name a rock band (or whatever the message prompts at the time) and leave it along with their message. She’s even had customers call right back leaving messages like, “Hey, I think I said The Who, but now that I think of it, weren’t they actually a 70s band?” Customers often revisit the question and their answer when the call is returned. It even lightens up the conversation when callers need help with a solution to a problem.

Of course, nothing beats talking to a live, genuinely pleasant and helpful person, promptly returned calls, answers to questions, and solutions to problems that (now I’ll now let my biases enter in) I am 100% positive they do. Like I said, I know a customer service representative there personally.

Think of the significant amounts companies invest building their brands and marketing their products. Think how many times you’ve had terrible service. (My cable provider, cellular phone company, health care providers, and every mega-retailer instantly come to mind.) All it takes is a bad receptionist, an impossible to navigate phone tree, unreturned phones calls, or lousy customer service when you do get through to lose a good customer or miss a prospective opportunity.

How well is your company delivering your brand on the front lines? If you don’t know, it might be a good time to find out.

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