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Low Tech Customer Care Solutions
(Marketing Memo, June, 2001)

In the best companies, one out five customers is unhappy. In the worst companies, one out of two customers is unhappy, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index. ("Consumers Voice Rising Dissatisfaction With Companies," Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2001) Taking a few low-tech measures can increase customer satisfaction and customer retention.

Recently, I disputed a bill from an insurance company that had both over-charged us and given us an unexplained credit. Resolving the problem was difficult since one subsidiary handled the policy and another the billing. I requested an 18-month account history, but the history was unclear. Eventually, a sympathetic supervisor explained that they were billing us for an unwanted new policy with another subsidiary. When I asked the company to cancel the second policy, a hostile customer service rep said to fax another explanation of the problem. It would then take three days to retrieve and read the fax. The problem is still not completely resolved!

Many companies are used to seeking a technology solution for all corporate ills. Often, however, using inexpensive common sense measures would do more to help improve customer satisfaction than installing another expensive software application.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Encourage all employees to treat customers in a friendly, respectful, helpful manner. Then, treat employees as you want your employees to treat your customers! The rep that needed three days to read a fax probably disliked her job and her company
  • Inculcate a can-do attitude. Motivate and train customer reps and receptionists. Some of the billing company's reps were either bored or untrained or both
  • Eliminate roadblocks to good customer care. The insurance company should buy more fax machines. They should also eliminate negative option insurance policy registration. Selling insurance is not the same as selling a $19.95 best seller
  • Try out your own products or services. Make sure your products work better than buyers expect. Listen in on customer service calls to ensure quality. Then, make sure your reward system reflects your commitment to excellence.

Some problems require more costly solutions. US companies lose a lot of business every year because they put customers and prospective customers on hold for long stretches. Investing in a phone system that allows customers to connect with a helpful human being is cost effective, as are the above common sense measures. Retaining existing customers is cheaper than cultivating new customers.

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