Tuesday, February 10, 2009

csi and public internet complaining

Hello dear reader. Be forewarned - this may be a long post.

And in case CSI is a new vocabulary acromyn for you - CSI: Customer Satisfaction Index is an internal measurement of how a company is doing the eyes of their customers.

I've read and participated in an etsy forum thread this morning in which a seller who is a customer of a jewelry supply company was upset about an experience she's had. She complained in a forum - publicly - and named the company, and before she knew it, she was contacted by phone by the company to try and fix her problem. To her credit, at the time I'm writing this, she's made comments that she acted out of emotion rather than intellect and has learned a valuable lesson about the speed and reach of the internet - but the central issue remains; are we that far away from receiving good to great customer service that when we do it feels out of place and like an intrusion? Is it an intrusion?

My reaction is that the customer got additional attention from the company she was unhappy with in good faith - however, she never complained to them directly - they became aware of her complaint and posting more than likely from checking their own web statistics and/or googling themselves. They called her on her home phone, which by the way, is also her business phone being that she works from home. They tried to make it right.

I'll add the link to this morning's forum if you're interested, but for now, I find myself re-examining my own core values in relationship to my business(es). One of them is online, two are not, and one is 50/50 on and offline. I do a lot more face-to-face and telephone business contacting than I think this particular seller did, and I expect to use my client's words, facial expressions, body language, etc. to help to guide me through a successful transaction... in other words - I go much more by personal interaction than just by online communications. In the online world, which is a business world, have we gotten away from wanting any personal contact? Are we going to be satisfied with emails, and be upset when the phone rings?

In the case of my etsy shop, it's more difficult to gauge my 'csi' except for positive feedback. I think if I had (luckily I haven't) received negative feedback, my first reaction would be to do whatever I could to remedy the problem and leave my customer with a good feeling about my business unless the customer was one of the very small minorty that is utterly unreasonable. On the other hand, I may well have unsatisfied customers that I am not aware of. What would I do if I found that they were? What do they expect from me? Interesting topic if your customer is a user name, address and email, without a face and some voice inflection.

In the online business model I find myself re-examining my core values in light of the lively and varied opinions on the conversation in that forum. The bottom line is that it doesn't matter to me in that case who was wrong or right; moreover, how would I handle a situation in which I was made aware of a customer's dissatisfaction in a round about way? It's an interesting and provocative thought. My first inclination would be the most direct communication possible as far as what information I had on that customer - but it leaves unanswered the question of why the customer didn't contact me for satisfaction.

I find in daily interactions that there is personality type that likes to complain to hear themselves talk rather than to find a solution to a problem, there are also those that would rather just forget about it rather than have to act in an assertive or even potentially confrontational way. These are the passive complainers - and forget that we're not as private as we think we are, in the den or the home office conducting business largely by a keyboard and mouse. I would be eager to fix a problem, but it needs to be brought to my attention in order that I can do something about it. I am also eager to have problems resolved, and happy when they are - I'm not sure how I would react to unsolicited service; I hope that I would feel pleasantly surprised.

I think that the American Consumer, and I'm talking about all of us - has become so conditioned to mediocre to rude attention to a consumer problem that it's the norm. Good customer relations, and exceptional customer relations are far less prevelant in today's business world. We are surprised (and in this case, offended) at more attention and hands-on problem solving to the point that it can feel like an intrusion rather than a good faith effort at making right what was wrong.

I would love to have your feedback on this topic - let's get the comment section going!




Baroness Bijoutery said...

I liked your blog very much and you bring up some very interesting points. I myself would feel just terrible if a customer was unhappy and didn't contact me directly so I could remedy the situation. After all happy customers are what we all want. I would hate to hear about something that was wrong thru the "grapevine".

I have never had a problem calling a company or emailing when I have a problem with their product or service. I would really prefer to deal face to face or the phone if at all possible. I read people very well so being face to face is the best. Even through a phone call you can gauge their reaction to your problem and if they are really being sincere. So when you are dealing with your own customer keep this in mind.

I deal with the public on a daily basis and try to help them as much as possible. I love working with people, always have. If we would put ourselves in their shoes maybe we would be more mindful of how we come off to them...Don't talk to me like I have two heads and a tail..I don't talk to you that way.

Like I said great post........

Kerstin said...

Baroness - Thanks for your comments. Having consistent and good customer service is just as important as the products themselves - I don't think one without the other does justice to being in any type of business. In this case, I guess the question is did the co. go too far in providing service, or are we, as consumers so used less than high quality service that we're thrown off guard when we get it?


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