During the course of a day, I spend more time than I want to answering an endless flow of email, monitoring social media sites and checking in on eCommerce forums. So when the phone rings, my eyes twitch in anticipation of getting a brief break from the screen before computer vision syndrome kicks in.
This afternoon I get a call from a rather upset woman who I’ll call Phyllis. I answer the call in my usual cheerful manner (except on Mondays) and immediately, without a formal introduction, she starts yelling. “I hired your company to build my website and I’ve had nothing but problems with it and nobody will call me back.” (FWIW: It’s always MY company when things go wrong!)
Self proclaimed customer service “gurus” will tell you that when you’re confronted with an irate customer, you should be sympathetic, apologize for the issue and work to diffuse the situation. However, I don’t listen to “gurus.” I use my own techniques. So, I tried something risky with the hopes that it would pay off instead of piss off.
“If I knew you were going to yell at me, maybe I wouldn’t return your call either, but you’ve got me now so let’s talk about what’s going on.”
Much to my surprise, it worked. She apologized for her demeanor, retracted her claws and with a deep breath began to calmly explain her situation.
Seems she had a website built for her company which sells aromatherapy candles. I jokingly suggested she try one to relieve her stress and she replied, “I’ve burned so many I don’t have any in stock.”
Ugh. I stopped and asked myself, “What am I in for here?”
Normally, when someone calls me to discuss their website or eCommerce store, I ask for the URL so I can bring it up on my computer and check it out while we talk on the phone. But in an attempt to give my aging eyes a break, I walked away from my desk and took the call away from my laptop.
She had three main issues with her website. The first was that when customers used the site search to look for a product, they were hit with a 404 (page not found) page rather than search results. The second was that when she clicked to enlarge an image, it didn’t enlarge. Finally, the third issue was that … hang on for this one … the wrong telephone number was typed into her header graphic, so callers dialing the number were getting a law office instead of a candle store.
I asked how long it’s been like this, and she said “several weeks.” Now, I could certainly understand her frustration that she wasn’t getting a call back and if I were in her situation, I wouldn’t have waited “several weeks” to contact someone higher up on the food chain to get it resolved.
I offered my apologies for the problems and asked for the names of the people who were involved with the project and who she was been leaving messages for.
None of them were familiar to me.
I walked back to my laptop, brought up her website, scrolled down to the bottom to see if there was a “website built by” link in the footer.
Yep. It was there.
The only problem is, the company that built her website doesn’t send me a paycheck every other Friday.
However, it was a company I was familiar with and I met the owner at a trade show or two in the past, so I knew I could possibly take this to the next level.
I explained to Phyl, that we didn’t build her store, but I’d be more than happy to make a telephone call in an attempt to help get her issues resolved once and for all. After a few good laughs and a brief chat about business, we hung up and I rang up the other company.
About an hour later, she sent me the following email:
Thanks so much for coming to my rescue today. I just spoke with XXX and their making the fixes this afternoon to my website. I feel embarrassed over the situation but I’m happy for your willingness to help. Please send me your address so I can send you a gift for going out of your way for me.
I’m thinking one of those stress candles may be coming my way, but that’s not why I came to her aid. I helped out because it’s simply the right thing to do. She may not be a customer today or three months from now, but chances are when she’s looking to have things done to her website in the future, she’ll remember what happened today and reach out.
That’s today’s lesson in customer service boys and girls, and remember, you don’t have to listen to a “guru” to learn how to handle a customer.
Sometimes you just need to listen to your gut.