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Customer grievances should not always be downsized to a 'send all details by email' response. Or a chance to talk it out with a chatbot. Image Credit: Shutterstock

To my mind, most GCC companies believe in delivering mediocre service irrespective of the industry, size of the company, and whether it’s brick-and-mortar or online. We all have experienced this with our car service, bank or at the grocery shop.

Isn’t it quite shocking to see the lacking in reliability, empathy, responsiveness and/or assurance – which are the main planks of service excellence?

If you listen closely each time you get a lousy service, you can pick up some hidden words that keep coming up. Customer service representatives don’t utter these words - What you “hear” are those unsaid words when the service provider is about to take you down the frustration path.

We all have heard of stories of isolated great service moments. The most hallowed one is that of the premium retailer that has a no-questions-asked return policy. And they have taken back even an item they never sold in their outlets - Nordstrom and the truck tyre return.

Then there is that airline that went out of its way to replace a shirt and trouser for a passenger on whom an airhostess spilt a drink (Singapore Airlines). Or that hotel where even a bellboy has the power to waive off room charges if he finds a guest unhappy with something (Marriott).

Progressively getting worse

Now what about the other extreme where we get horrible customer service? Like when you order groceries in a mobile app and you end up chasing that order for three days on undelivered items? Or when you send your car for regular service and it comes back with a bigger problem that did not exist. Or when a travel site refuses to refund your business class fare despite having the airline agreeing to full refund.

Such incidents leave us wondering how this could be happening to us. In total contrast to the benefits of great customer service, a poor service will lead to customer defection, erosion of sales, and consumer forum cases. Horrible service experiences will never leave a customer’s mind (I still remember all of them).

If you really think and analyse about the horrible service experiences you have had in the past, you will find that there are some common traits. For instance, the service provider never tried to apologise or show empathy.

How can we know in advance, at the beginning of our service experience whether we are going to have a good or lousy experience? Try to listen to seven key words, none of which will be said to you openly.

These unspoken seven words will tell us if we are going to get lousy service: ‘How to get rid of this problem’. Essentially you will find most service providers somehow want to kill the problem a customer is bringing up, instead of looking at it as a service issue that needs process changes.

This is also because of the failure to take up the right measures for strategic service objectives. So how do we spot the unstated seven key words? You will find these words hidden in some of the common statements lousy service providers make:

• ‘Please send your complaint to our corporate office with purchase proof…’;

• ‘This division is not responsible for the issue you have…’;

• ‘Please go to our website or call our toll-free number to register your complaint…’;

• ‘Our office in the city centre only can handle this, so you need to go physically there…’;

• ‘We will send the technician next week sometime…’; and

• ‘We cannot take your complaint on phone as all our customer service representatives are working from home because of Covid; so please send detailed email…’

If you hear any of the above or similar phrases from your service provider, you know it is time for you to be firm with them and protect your interests. You have paid them for the service and you need to get the value for the same.

The least they can do is make some serious effort in resolving your issue. Next time when you do business with any service provider, watch out for similar phrases to the above that hide the seven unspoken words.