Customer service and the art of being cheerful

“It doesn’t cost anything to be nice,” said a friend of mine recently, over a caramel latte with wings. What she didn’t add is that not being nice does cost something. Customer goodwill. And sometimes, custom itself. A few days later, her observation was thrown into stark relief when I almost (though not quite) changed my mobile phone operator yet again. Yes, yes, I know it only seems like yesterday that I changed to the oddly named giffgaff, but I was lured by the siren call of hundreds of minutes, texts galore and unlimited web browsing. Plus the sexiest phone ever, with a 4″ touch screen, a 1GHz processor and a 5MP camera. So why almost? The answer is simple: service. With, and without, a smile. The online mobile phone shop was busy, busy, busy. They didn’t reply to emails. They were unreachable on the phone, unless you were willing to listen to Total Eclipse of the Heart for 45 minutes (torture even in the 80s, when it first came out). So before  I even got my hands on that technological marvel and talked, texted and surfed, I was having a bad service experience. Meanwhile, over at giffgaff Towers, things were altogether more laid back – and on the ball. A winning combination. I logged a request for a PAC (Port Authorisation Code) so I could take my number with me. Then, I settled down for a long wait, my expectations set by the snail’s-pace service of my new provider. Minutes later, a jaunty missive winged its way to my In Box:
We’re gutted that you’ve decided to leave giffgaff, however, here’s that all important PAC that you requested. If you do, however, ever fancy a ‘second coming’ and want to rejoin giffgaff you are more than welcome to do so. If you have any more questions or queries don’t hesitate to get in touch. Kindest regards & good luck
Gutted. Second coming. Good luck. Aah. Doesn’t it just melt your heart? It did mine. And there and then, I decided to stay with giffgaff. So they snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by adopting a simple strategy. Being nice. Even when I was dumping them. Now that’s what I call class.

Loves me, loves me not

If only everybody was as gracious in defeat, they might not be defeated so often. As part of my recent dejunking exercise, I’ve been reviewing how I use my time. And I decided that Lovefilm had to go – at least for a while. Luckily, their site had just the ticket: a payment holiday. Yay, I thought. Up to 90 days when I don’t have to scratch around to find yet another film I don’t really want to watch but feel duty-bound to, because I have to clock up the requisite number of DVDs a month. Sorry, it said when I clicked the link. Some types of subscription don’t qualify for payment holidays. Please call… …an Indian call centre. Where I got the third degree and a half-hearted attempt to persuade me to stay by offering me a program for a games console (I don’t have one). I walked out on that relationship without so much as a backward glance. And I was left with the bitter taste of a bad service experience.

Reaping and sowing

Sometimes, I lose work to the competition. Who doesn’t? But when a prospective client tells me they’ve decided to go with somebody else, I always wish them the very best and hope it all goes well. Why? Two reasons. First, nothing eats away at you like bitterness and resentment. Sure, you’ve spent time on the pitch, and yes, you could have spent the time more profitably. But if you hadn’t put your all into trying to win the business, wouldn’t you have wondered ever afterwards whether you might, just possibly, have won it if you’d tried a little harder? So try hard, and if you lose, be a good loser. It’ll make you feel better. But second, and as important, people remember good losers. On more than one occasion, I’ve had people who decided not to use me for one project come back to me for another. Or recommend me to a friend. Or even, in extreme cases, come back to me to re-do the original project they took elsewhere, only to see it badly botched. (And no, I never permit myself a wry smile, even on the telephone – it shows in your voice.) So my caramel-latte chum was right – being nice doesn’t cost anything. And it might just be the best form of marketing you have. So spread the love. Because one day, you’ll get it back.