How NOT to do customer communication

One of the simplest ways to improve your customer service is to think about how you expect to be treated by someone offering you a service.

Mrs P and I recently decided we needed a new front door so turned to the Internet

We posted a job on Rated People with an outline of the work we wanted doing and shortly after I got a phone call from a local business and organised for him to come around, measure up and give us a quote.

We accepted the quote and filled out all the paperwork to place the order. The installation time was organised for some six weeks later because of the lead time on the door we wanted and choosing a date that worked for both of us.

We were told they would be there at 8AM on the day and should be all done by noon at the very latest. This enabled Mrs P to plan her day accordingly (school runs, etc)

On the day itself 8am came and passed with no sign of the fitters.

Finally around 9.30 I got call to explain that he was in Birmingham and his supplier was closed. He wasn’t sure why but it appeared they had decided to stay closed after the bank holiday. He said that he’d make some more enquires and get back to me.

A couple of hours passed and I heard nothing more. Mrs P was still waiting in the house as he hadn’t actually cancelled yet and didn’t know if he was going to turn up in the next five minutes or not at all.

I called him back and was told he hadn’t been able to hold of anyone at the company, he didn’t have any news for me which was why hadn’t called. We ended the call with him cancelling the appointment and that he’d rearrange once he knew what was going on with the door supplier.

The rest of the week came and went with another bank holiday in between. I went back to work on the Tuesday and still hadn’t heard anything by Wednesday afternoon so gave him a call.

I was told the supplier had indeed been closed over the bank holiday and he’d only returned from a holiday the previous day which is why he hadn’t called me.

A date was arranged for the following week.

The installation date came and he did turn up with the door (albeit twenty minutes late) though in the days running up to it we had no idea how we were supposed to pay him. (cheque/bank transfer/cash!)

Have I made it obvious what irked me?

While we were very happy with the completed work it’ll be highly unlikely that I’ll reuse or recommend that person.  

The entire lack of communication was highly frustrating.

First, the door supplier – did they do a good enough job of communicating a change to their opening hours? I can’t actually answer this to be honest as it could have been the fitter who hadn’t done his “homework”. That said if he’d ordered/reserved the door surely a collection date would have been organised. If this was the case at this point the fact they were going to be closed should have been outlined.

Second was the lack of ownership of the problem. The fitter had an appointment with us at eight AM but I didn’t hear from him until an hour and half after that. The conversation on the phone was all about blaming the supplier and I never actually got an apology at this stage.

Third was the lack of updates on what was happening. I had to chase him some hours later to find out what was going on and his response was “I didn’t call as I don’t have any news”. This wasn’t very helpful when we’d arranged for someone to be at home and they were still waiting on him.

Fourth, why did I have to chase up for a new appointment? I’m not saying he had to break into his holiday just to keep me informed but he’d returned to work as normal (he was on a roof when I called him) – if I hadn’t called when would he have called me?

Finally, and it’s only a small thing but the issue around how to make a payment. The night before we made the decision we were going to give him a cheque – we didn’t actually know if this was ok but he hadn’t told us anything different. It wasn’t on any paper work we’d had nor had it been mentioned. A little think but could have been little awkward when he’d finished.

I ended up as frustrated customer, I understand that mistakes happen – nothing runs to plan all the time but this could have all been avoided by making a couple of calls.

So as I said right at the start what I’ll be taking away from this how it can have an impact on my customer service.

Is it possible to OVER communicate? Either way too much communication is surely better than no communication right?

As always thoughts and comments welcome!

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Andy Parkes is Technical Director at Coventry based IT support company IBIT Solutions. Formerly, coordinator of AMITPRO and Microsoft Partner Area Lead for 2012-2013. He also isn't a fan of describing himself in the third person.

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