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  • Gee

What is good customer service? (10)

Updated: Feb 2, 2020

(dificuldade 10 – pode encontrar uma lista de vocabulário no final)

It’s another sunny day in São Paulo, and you need to service your car/contact your bank/cancel your insurance policy/change your internet package/transfer miles onto your airline scheme – and you give a little sigh. It can’t be that hard can it? But you know that it is. Whatever you want to change/cancel is a primeval fight that will require your stoutest resolve and most ruthless follow-through. The battle for customer service has begun…

But should it be so hard, really? Maybe you think it’s not so bad. Ok, so let’s test the concept of customer service a little bit. Try this little quiz…

1. Cell phone company: You run a mobile telephone company and are delighted to discover you have over a million customers. You offer a standard service that matches your competitors but no real differentials in what has become something of a ‘commodity’ service. One of the company policies you need to decide is how long you should give your customers to pay their bill and, in particular, what to do if they don’t pay the bill within the monthly deadline. Do you…?

a) Send them an automated text message to remind them that they have missed the payment deadline and a link informing them of the easiest way to set their account in order

b) Add the missed payment to the following monthly invoice with a warning that failure to meet this month’s payment deadline could cause their service to be discontinued together with potential recovery action

c) Immediately suspend the customer’s account until they pay their bill (the scumbags)

2. You are a waiter. You don’t love your job but it pays the bills and at least you are working in a prestigious high-end bar with customers who tip generously. There’s a gringo in the bar who looks like he’s just stepped off the plane. You approach him warmly and ask him what he wants to drink. He smiles and responds equally cheerily. The only problem is, you don’t understand what he said. Do you…?

a) Ask him to repeat and see if what he says makes sense the second time around

b) Feign a coughing fit and invite a colleague to take the gringo’s order

c) Smile and nod profusely, then give him the day’s special

3. Internet provider: You offer a neat little service that protects your clients’ computer against malicious software. Handily they can open their account online with just a few clicks of the mouse. But they may also wish to terminate the service one day, so you consider how best to let them close their account. Do you…?

a) Tell them their subscription will automatically expire unless they opt-in to continue with the service

b) Offer them a process that also requires just a few clicks of the mouse

c) Require them to call a hotline with multiple options, ensuring they will be on hold for at least 20 minutes, which enables a good chance for the call to fail, and if they do finally manage to speak to one of your staff ensure that the process to close the account entails a written confirmation from the client that they wish to cancel the service, with their signature duly recognized by an authorized notary

4. Car Dealer: You run a respectable car dealership. The sales commissions are pretty good, but the real money is in the after-sales service. People who buy your cars need the authentication of having their car serviced regularly at your garage if they wish to maintain the car’s market value. For the first, one-year, service you know there’s not a lot that needs doing, but at the same time you feel the heat from your masters to hit your profit targets. Do you…?

a) Provide the minimum service necessary – an oil change and a quick kick of the tires, just to make sure that your client knows everything is in order and they can drive henceforth with confidence

b) Change everything that the handbook says you should change, even it doesn’t strictly need it

c) Charge for the full service – oil change, oil filter, air filter, brake-pads, wheel alignment, lubricants, engine cleaner, windscreen fluid, any other fluids that are on promotion – and throw in R$400,00 for vacuuming the air-conditioning system just for good measure. After all, no-one can prove it wasn’t needed

5. Airline: You’ve been an air-steward for a number of years – more than you care to remember. But you’ve got the routine down pat – the passenger welcome, stowing the (unreasonably oversized) hand-luggage, the re-settling of passengers who wish to change seats, and the passenger safety drill. 40 minutes into the flight it’s time to serve the in-flight meal, so you dutifully team-up with your long-time colleague and begin the dinner service, greeting each passenger with – ‘beef or chicken’? One of the passengers has the temerity to ask what each dish comes with. Do you…?

a) Smile politely and inform him the beef comes with potato and vegetables, while the chicken is curried with rice

b) Take an example of each dish and offer a sneaky peek inside

c) Turn to your colleague theatrically and ridicule the passenger as if he were Oliver Twist* asking for more, saying – ‘he wants to know what it comes with!’ And then suggest that if he doesn’t make up his mind quickly, he’ll get nothing. (and no, I don’t fly with American Airlines anymore)

6. Retail bank: You are a retail bank with many millions of customers, one of the nation’s flagship institutions listed on both national and international stock exchanges, a pillar of the establishment, building governments and shaping the national economy. And the foundation of your success are the many millions of common customers who place their livelihoods in your trusty hands each month. By way of gratitude for their unquestioning loyalty, you reward them by…

a) Ensuring they pay no more for your banking services than you need to cover your costs and make a modest profit margin

b) Ensuring that the customer interaction is as seamless as possible, allowing the automation of all regular customer payments and responding to your clients’ contacts efficiently to ensure their minimum inconvenience

c) Taking advantage of your cartel to earn excessive rents with the most expensive monthly fee and interest rates in the world while keeping the customer at arms’ length by making them wait thirty minutes when they either call or visit (and flipping the bird cheerfully while you do so)!

Don’t get me started on banks. In case you are wondering, the top 3 banks in Brazil made profits of R$53bn in 2018 alone (yes, 53 billion – think about that if you can). Why? Because they are unregulated and charge what they like. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Meanwhile, if you answered C to any of the questions above, then you are clearly fully adjusted in your expectations as to the type of customer service you can expect from the companies you encounter day-to-day. And then there are government services…

The government is there to serve the People, spending the People’s hard-earned cash wisely. But it doesn’t always seem to work out that way. Maybe I’ll keep this topic for another blog.

So what is good customer service? I am not a guru on such matters, but here are some ideas that some people might consider common sense.

· Close your mouth for one second, pay attention and listen to what the other person is saying. It’s not just gringos who don’t get what they ordered in the bar/restaurant/bakery – it is just about everybody I’ve ever been out with.

· Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What would make you most satisfied if you wanted the product or service your company is offering? Speed and accuracy of service? The possibility of a ‘no-questions-asked’ refund if the customer doesn’t receive what they were expecting? Clear and easy means of contacting the company if needed? Prices that are not exploitative? Products and services that meet expectations? Polite and attentive staff? As the cliché goes – it’s not rocket science.

· Social media should not replace good customer service. Modern technology is truly a great and marvelous thing, but that doesn’t mean you should expect your customers to do all the work for you. Expecting the old and vulnerable (or anybody for that matter) to be able to navigate your complex internet platform, or be comfortable dealing with a faceless text box that generates stock answers is unreasonable. Sometimes your customer needs to talk to one of your staff – so please provide one, and make sure they have the technical skills and decision-making authority to resolve your customer’s needs in a timely manner (before the phone line cuts off!).

· When selling your product or service online – don’t put the customer on automatic renewal so that their credit card is automatically charged 12 months later, long after the customer has forgotten they ever bought the service. It’s plain dishonest.

· Be transparent – if the price you are advertising doesn’t include the full service, then tell us! There are few things more frustrating than discovering after you buy something that you are not getting what you thought you were buying and that in fact you need to pay more than you realized.

· If your customer wants to end the relationship – let them! Putting up countless barriers to prevent your customer leaving you will only make them more determined to do so and generate lots of negativity that they will waste no time sharing with their friends via social media or worse. It also makes you look weak and insecure, like a jilted lover who refuses to accept the relationship is over and keeps threatening to slit their wrists because they can’t live without you. And if you allowed your customer to sign-up for your service online, then allow them to cancel the service online. You will be truly differentiated from your competitors and gain a lot of trust and respect – and that has never hurt anyone’s business.

And my advice to anyone reading is to be demanding. Don’t accept poor customer service. If you’ve paid hard cash for something, then you have a right to receive exactly what was promised. My wife thinks I’m a pain in the ass – and she’s right – I am a pain in the ass, because if I order a drink without sugar and it comes with sugar, I send it back. Companies are only going to sharpen up when their clients require them to do so. So don’t accept second best. Don’t accept being disrespected. And use the bodies available to resolve your problems – whether it’s PROCON, or BACEN or whatever (you probably know them better than me).

Sermon over. 😉 Any complaints or suggestions re this blog or podcast can be addressed to:

* Oliver Twist is a story by Charles Dickens, one of Britain’s most celebrated writers, who championed the poor, writing between 1830 and 1870.


sigh – suspiro

primeval – primitivo

stoutest – mais forte / mais robusto

ruthless – impiedoso / cruel

follow-through – acompanhamento

scumbag – escória / cafajeste

to tip – dar gorjeta

cheerily – numa maneira amigável

to feign – fingir

coughing fit – ataque de tosse

nod – acenar com a cabeça

neat – legal / bem construído (literalmente – bem arrumado)

handy – conveniente (handily – numa maneira conveniente)

to ensure – assegurar

to enable – facilitar

to entail – implicar

duly – devidamente

notary – cartório / tabelião

tires – pneus

henceforth – daqui em diante

strictly – necessariamente / estritamente

brake-pad – pastilha de freio

windscreen – para-brisas

air-steward – aeromoço / aeromoça

to have down pat – ter domínio / saber tudo sobre um assunto

to stow – guardar

re-settle – acomodar / assentar

drill – exercitar / ensinar

dutifully – obedientemente

team-up – unir-se

greet – cumprimentar

temerity – temeridade

sneaky – sorrateiro

peek – olhadinha

flagship – carro-chefe

to shape – formar / moldar

livelihood – os meios de vida (dinheiro neste caso)

trusty – confiável

rents – lucro (neste caso. Também tem o sentido de aluguel, mas no singular - rent)

fee – tarifa

interest rates – taxas de juros

to keep at arms’ length – manter longe

to flip the bird (gíria – mostrar o dedo de meio / ofender numa maneira de quem não liga sobre nada)

cheerful – alegre

don’t get me started – (expressão) – não me deixa começar porque vou ter muito para falar

hard-earned cash – dinheiro suado

wisely – numa maneira sábia

put yourself in someone’s shoes – se coloque no lugar deles

for that matter – aliás

stock answers – respostas padronizadas

plain – simplesmente (neste caso. Tem várias outros sentidos também como)

jilted – abandonado / rejeitado

slit your wrist – cortar seu pulso

sharpen up – prestar atenção / melhorar o desempenho


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