“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.”
Roger Staubach, Legendary Hall of Fame Quarterback

In the past, I had a lot of trouble with my Hotmail account. I couldn’t get in to read my email. I tried to communicate with the good people at Hotmail to no avail. I also monitored the rising frustration of other Hotmail customers who have been posting their issues on forums.

It struck me that we should talk about good customer service. What makes you feel like you have received good customer service? And what does that mean to you when you are making buying decisions?

At Possibilities Unlimited, we coach our clients to make their customers feel heard. That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? When things go wrong, we all want to feel like someone is in our corner, that they’ve heard our question or concern, and are doing everything they can to fix it.

The mere fact of acknowledging a customer’s concern goes a long way to keeping him happy. Most people understand that things go wrong from time to time, and they can usually forgive an honest mistake when the company admits what they did wrong and moves swiftly to correct the error.

What if the opposite is true? What if the company makes excuses or shifts the blame? What if they don’t respond to customer questions?

When people don’t feel heard, they start talking louder. If you ask your child to clean his room and he doesn’t respond, you raise your voice. Same thing happens in customer service. If people don’t get answers, they raise their voices, either by making additional demands or threatening to quit the service.

In Hotmail’s case, you could almost hear the collective screams of many people who had been locked out of their email accounts for days without answers. Hotmail’s repetitive response went something like this:

“We have been doing maintenance on the Hotmail system. You should not experience outages for more than four hours. Try again later.”

They didn’t address the problem head on, and they seemingly weren’t listening to people who had been locked out for far longer than four hours. Many people were posting that they had already gotten Gmail accounts and dumped the Hotmail service.

Could this have been avoided if Hotmail had posted a general message like this?

“We know you must be very frustrated that you can’t access your email. It’s a big problem, and we don’t have it figured out yet. Rest assured that we have brought in extra help and are getting to the bottom of the issue as fast as we can. We will post updates every hour on our progress.”

We can all learn a lot about customer service from situations like this one. Just remember that honesty and a listening ear can be a winning formula when the unexpected happens.


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Ralph White
Business Coach, Author, Artist & CEO
310.372.8538 | Ralph@Consulting2Win.com
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