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Edition 229 – Customer Care

Some experiences in recent weeks, both of my own and those of my clients, have me questioning, again, whether the large corporates really care for their customers – or whether they’re considered a nuisance that gets in the way of said corporate’s day.

Here’s some examples:

  1. Photocopier & Printer
    1. Our copier contract is with a large company whose name sounds like a weapon.
    2. They issued their May invoice on the 16th of June, with a demand for payment by the 19th of June – 3 days to pay.
    3. Even though we paid prior to their due date, on the 24th June, they issued us with a Payment Demand notice, suggesting our account wasn’t paid. The old rider of “if you’ve paid in the past few days, please disregard this notice” was on the payment demand notice.
    4. When my wife opened the email, not only was she incredulous at the accusation of late payment, she decided to call them and put them straight.
    5. When the phone call was made, the company’s recorded message (mid-morning, by the way) was that they had no operators to take our call.
    6. So, in summary – invoice late; demand early payment; don’t resource your call centre in case any customer has a query. Oh! and “your call is important to us!”
  2. Telephones and Internet
    1. One client is having an issue with their phone provider (yes, that behemoth) and the provider of the national broadband network in terms of their new connection to the NBN.
    2. This is a professional business with a retail presence – so it needs phones to be working to make bookings and remain in contact with clients.
    3. There is nothing short of “duck-shoving” taking place between the phone company and the internet provider to the point where each is blaming the other for the lack of a connection. 
    4. All communications, of course, are handled through offshore call centres where you never speak to the same person twice, there is no ownership of the issue and the conversation is peppered with platitudes, but not solutions.
    5. I can sympathise with my client’s predicament, having lived through the incompetence of no phones nor internet for 17 weeks whilst these two business buffoons argued with each other – see Edition 98 – The Poor Attitude of Big Business – Wednesday 6th December, 2017.

It seems to me the only way each of these businesses survives is because they are that big, you either have little choice to go elsewhere or, in the case of the NBN, cannot go elsewhere. In a truly competitive market, each of them would be exposed and, most likely, would be broke.

On the other side of the coin, a family business client of mine received a phone call very late one recent Tuesday afternoon. One of their clients in the food industry suffered a major malfunction on a production line and required urgent repairs. Being so late in the day, and without too many contractors to call on, one of the plant managers contacted my client and highlighted the predicament they were facing. My client pulled out all stops, grabbed one of his most experienced team members, then ran an all-nighter to ensure the repairs were undertaken at the plant. By 5am Wednesday morning, the production line was up and running and the loss of tens of thousands of dollars of production was alleviated as a result of the care and professionalism of a family business. Now, that’s what I call service!

These examples are why I’m very optimistic about family business as we emerge from the COVID 19 pandemic. All the talk at the moment is of large corporates shedding large numbers of people because of a downturn in business. Amongst the family businesses I’m working with, they are either holding steady on their employment numbers or actually recruiting for additional staff.

Perhaps big business needs to take a lesson from small business about what it means to look after customers – and in turn, look after business, build goodwill and protect the jobs of their employees.

Goodwill is not merely a figure in the balance sheet of most businesses. It’s actually the definition of how you look after your customers, and how they perceive that level of care..