Every episode in life represents something of a lesson. A week or so ago, for example, it seemed that even without my knowing it, I had somehow enrolled in the subject "Fine examples in disastrous customer service". I was fortunate enough, too, to be taught by Australia's very best tutors - Optus and Telstra.
How lucky am I?
For my first lesson, our ISDN link was cut off two weeks ago on Friday. Now I won't go into too many details because deputy editor Cameron Tomes has discussed the issue in his column. But suffice it to say, Telstra didn't restore it till midday Tuesday, putting our electronic services off the air for almost five days.
So for those that didn't receive our daily e-mail news service or were unable to access our Web site during that time, I apologise.
Obviously, though, Telstra thought the inconvenience was necessary for lesson number one in my exceptional education on customer service to fully sink in.
Lesson1. When a customer has a complaint, act on it, and act on it quickly.
At this stage, I wasn't feeling good about Telstra, which was good timing for the other telcos, because I finally decided I had to have a mobile phone.
I found what I thought was a good deal at Ryda on the Optus network. The Ryda salesman did a nice job of upselling me to a better phone and I was sold. I sat there thinking how it would now make sense to use Optus for all my telco needs, so I could get all my charges on the one bill. Then Optus kicked into my lesson for the day by telling me I had been declined and they wouldn't let me have a phone.
I guess I failed the credit check which is kind of confusing when my bank just offered me a whopping big loan for a house.
I would suggest to any reseller that uses any financing service that if the finance company declines the buyer, there is going to be one very insulted, humiliated and angry customer to deal with.
Both Ryda and Optus had an opportunity at this point. Anyone that was lucky enough to hear the presentation by businesswoman Catherine DeVrye on customer service at the ChannelWorld '99 conference would have learnt that the real key to customer service is being able to recover after a customer has a bad experience.
The Ryda guy failed because he basically gave up on the sale. He also managed to increase my indignation by suggesting I bring my wife in and we try under her name. I fired off a nasty e-mail to Optus and they failed by sending me a letter telling me they were unable to service me based on either the information I provided them or because of a credit check. Well duh.
Lesson 2. If you have a dissatisfied customer, take the time to find out the problem and bend over backwards to fix the situation.
Every consumer is looking for that supplier who will come through when the going gets tough. Prove you can do that and you've gone a long way to gaining their loyalty.