Customers and Feri's: a bittersweet story Posted on 28 Sep 09:58
It's the beginning of the day, and many things are uncertain. One thing however I can predict: we will meet customers today. And when we do, we will do everything to make them happy. Easy, right?
Sometimes it's easy. When all goes well, for instance. No rush, everyone's happy. But customer service isn't just for the good times. In fact, serving customers what they ask for is one thing. Serving customers when they did not get what they asked for is a tougher one.
We are a very small business with limited resources. All we have is high quality products and the willingness to serve our customers the best we can. It doesn't always work out well...
Yesterday, for instance, I made a mistake. It was a very busy day, we delivered to 5 reko rings that day. Among those there were two in Vantaa, that happened to start the same time. One old and one brand new reko. Now, it's my responsibility to make sure that everything goes smoothly and I naively assumed that two rekos of the same day in Vantaa won't have the same starting time. I was mistaken.
In one reko we had two, the other reko we had eight customers, so I drove to the latter one. At the same time I called Niina who worked at the computer, and asked her to notify the two customers in the reko I abandoned not to wait for me, instead provide an address (phone, Messenger, e-mail) I can later deliver their sausages. One customer did contact me, so I was able to deliver the product she ordered. In fact, we had a 5 minutes chat on food, rekos and food stores, so at the end of the day we went home with no hard feelings.
My mistake meant 30 minutes more work and 16 km drive, by the time I've worked 14 hours already. So, yes, I did want to go home... But what I want doesn't matter, because the customer is first.
To us, customer service is facing the consequences of our actions and decisions day by day. Quite frankly, most of the times this is very pleasant, as we get fantastic feedbacks. But there are times when we experience a shitstorm of consequences after a poor decision or a simple human error.
Because, as I you can see, we are far from perfect. No matter how we try to avoid it, error is normal in every business. So the question is, how to deal with it, once we did "something stupid"?
At Feri's most mistakes are caused by the rush in the last 30 minutes before delivery, mostly to a distant reko site. In these occasions we accidentally leave a whole box of salsiccia in the cold storage, or miscalculate the number of bratwursts needed for the reko.
What makes this really annoying is the fact that our customers have to drive to the pick up site, and leave without the product they'd pre-ordered. We have little or no chance to fix these situations.
And yes, in cases like that we must take the negative critiques as well deserved, and use them as a channel for a meaningful conversation with the customer we let down.
Why is it important to pacify the situation and leave good impressions after an error? Stats shows that only 4% of customers complain openly, while 91% of unhappy customers will simply never come back, without saying a word.
Which means, that we must start a conversation even BEFORE the customer meets the problem (no sausage, late delivery etc) instead of waiting for the feedback (which comes, but mostly doesn't)
Why? Because most of the times WE CAN TELL there was a mistake, change of plans, etc. In addition to that, I experience a very civilised response from most of our customers for not getting what they ordered in cases when THEY WERE INFORMED beforehand.
It isn't difficult if we see things from the customer's point of view and make her problems ours. After all, that is the case: an unhappy customer is bad for business.