Accidents happen, it’s part of everyday life. But, when an accident happens on your premises or under your management, customer service must not suffer too.
It’s a litigious world we live in. Thanks to incessant reminders about claiming that PPI we might be owed or turning an accident into a medical negligence claim, many people are on the lookout for ‘something for nothing’.
Although we are calming down from the ‘Health and Safety’ obsessed mentality of last decade, no business can afford to neglect health and safety issues and potential issues in their work environment.
Marketing Stockport’s Chris Lowe, director of business sleuth Shopper Anonymous, is a stickler for following rules. He and his team believe that, if an incident should happen, how you react and handle the situation is critical. Excellence in customer service transcends the simple transaction; true excellence shows itself in the good times and the bad.
This week, Chris provides his Expert Opinion and demonstrates what is and what is not ‘Excellent Customer Service’.
A case in point……. my cousin Tom and his partner recently took their two-year-old to a play café in London. During the play experience, Sophie jammed her leg in a broken frame within the ball pit. On attempting to free herself, she broke her leg.
The worried parents quickly decided that they needed to take Sophie to A&E as she appeared to be in a lot of pain. As they attempted to rush out, they were delayed as they were made to pay for the two coffees they had just ordered, but had not yet had time to drink. Tom also asked for the incident to be recorded in the ‘Accident Book’, however, there wasn’t one……
Sophie’s leg was indeed broken and was placed in a cast and a splint.
Tom phoned the play centre the next day to inform the manager of Sophie’s broken leg and the danger of the broken frame in the ball pit. He was informed, quite aggressively, that the broken frame wasn’t their fault as it was due to parents climbing in and damaging the equipment. Tom was also told that there was a warning sign on the equipment (there wasn’t). The duty manager made every attempt to put the blame in Tom’s court and did not once enquire about Sophie’s welfare.
When Tom called back to ensure that this area would be fixed, he was told: ‘The manager is away on extended leave and unable to talk’.
During the several phone calls that ensued, Tom was treated with aggression and suspicion. After being treated with disdain and a total lack of concern, Tom is now considering whether to take the matter further.
Imagine a very different scenario…….
- On realising there was an accident, a first-aid trained team member should have assessed the situation and closed off the area to prevent further issues.
- The family concerned should have been treated in a calm and sensitive manner (having a team member demanding payment for two coffees before the family rushed out to the hospital was neither sensitive nor appropriate).
- Details and phone numbers should have been exchanged.
- The incident should have been recorded in the ‘Accident Book’.
- A follow-up phone call should have been made to Sophie’s family to enquire about her health.
- A voucher for a free play or meal could have been offered to Sophie’s family. (Be sensitive with this as you don’t want your gesture to be construed as a bribe!).
- An assurance that the broken frame was fixed should be given to Sophie’s family.
Every step of the alternative scenario (except the optional free play offer) is free.
And every step of the alternative scenario would have meant that Sophie’s family were happy with their treatment and would probably not wish to take any further action.
It is possible that someone may hurt themselves on your premises, or suggest that they have been, on any day of the week. In most cases, having a concerned and caring demeanour can alter the whole nature of the interaction.
Using phrases like ‘I can see how that must have upset you’ or ‘I understand that this has caused you inconvenience/pain/frustration’ and listening to your customer’s story with patience and concern, are paramount to a quick resolution. Being defensive or contradicting your customer, EVEN IF YOU THINK THEY ARE IN THE WRONG, will only add fuel to the fire.
With any accident or dispute, you have the power to diffuse the situation considerably, simply with what you say and how you say it. Follow up is critical. Make a personal phone call or send an email. And to sweeten any tension completely, offer something in the way of recompense; a free coffee or meal, a free visit, flowers or perhaps a bespoke service/appointment/product.
It is worth reviewing your accident reporting procedures and making sure your workplace practices are health and safety compliant on, at the very least, an annual basis. When was the last time you checked the computer cables trailing across the office or the flooring near the entrance door?
A genuine expression of concern and a promise to make good will succeed in diffusing the majority of grievances. A simple sorry is priceless. Thanks to Chris Lowe for contributing his Expert Opinion
Image courtesy of the blue diamond gallery from Google images