Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Customer Service Saga

_DSC1604We are becoming increasingly sophisticated customers, demanding more care and attention from the businesses we patronise. Businesses in this age need to adapt their strategies to better manage their customers. It takes a long time to build up customer trust, but it’s easy to loose all that in an instant.

Let me share an update on the customer service saga I had with Domino’s over my ruined Christmas-eve lunch. A person from Domino’s call centre called me last night to apologise for my terrible experience. I don’t want to speculate on how sincere the apology was, but he did say all the right things. Just about how a textbook on customer service, in the chapter on service recovery after a terribly bad experience, would have instructed.

In the interest of transparency, I was also offered a small freebie. I’m glad that the Domino’s representative played down the gesture, and instead focused on the core of my complaint. We discussed a little about how Domino’s can do better in the future. It’s a good thing too, that he was in no rush to finish the call.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I don’t consider myself a difficult customer, and I’m not out to get freebies. I was indignant and upset that Domino’s, particularly the store manager, wasn’t paying attention. Am I satisfied with the apology? Honestly, I feel it is the very least that they must do, otherwise I will permanently blacklist them. The real test, of course, is how they will perform in future. Will they improve their operations, their service delivery, and their customer care? This is something that has to be embedded in the company culture.

I love Domino’s 30 minute guaranteed delivery commitment, and I certainly do hope that they will be able to keep to that commitment.

I wanted to say a couple of things about customer service in general. Some companies go beyond reasonable expectations to ensure that their customers’ interests are cared for.

Let me give some examples, one that is happening across this Christmas season. You may have read about UPS delays leading up to Christmas . Amazon took it upon themselves to send me an email to alert that one of my packages will be delayed. It’s not their fault, it’s not within their control, and in fact, the package is with UPS, not them. The package wasn’t even promised to arrive before Christmas in the first place. It was very nice of Amazon to let me know.

More related to the F&B industry, I had a catering order from a sushi restaurant many years ago. A full hour before the scheduled delivery time, they realised they were going to be running late. They called me to let me know they could be late by up to 15 minutes. It’s not nice to be late, but it is so much appreciated that they took the effort to let me know.

There was an article carried by our Straits Times recently about more shopping malls coming up in Singapore in the next couple of years because of the growing population. Yeah, the 6.9M number seems to be growing too. Of course, for certain businesses, you really need physical brick and mortar store. But for many others, beware the competition from online retailers from overseas.

Many Singaporeans are already shopping overseas, online. With many online stores doing reasonable international shipping (or free), and further aided by several numbers of freight forwarders, we are no longer constrained by our shorelines.

I love to talk about the Apple Online Store. We don’t have a physical Apple Store in Singapore (no, Epi Centre and iStudio sorts don’t count). But they do have an online presence serving Singapore. Free delivery is superb. Even for a S$13 Magsafe 2 adapter. It gets sent by courier, by the way. Then, there’s free returns (with some restrictions). No questions asked. I mean, you could just get something, try, and hey, it isn’t quite what you liked, then return it.

They aren’t the only ones. Let’s see, Zalora does this too? Free returns, no questions asked.

Free returns are not uncommon in the U.S. Delivery, usually on purchases above a reasonable minimum amount, is often free too. We have been missing out on so much of this in Singapore.

I think it is going to be quite a challenge for some of our brick and mortar retail businesses. Perhaps the main reason to continue buying from them is that you get to see what you buy, and you get to take it with you right away.

Okay, I digress. I was supposed to talk about customer service. As the competition gets tougher, one value differentiator is going to be in the area of customer experience. I’m really referring to the entire cycle from pre-sales, the actual sale transaction, and post-sales, and subsequently leading back to repeat sales. Customer service is just one part of it. There are lots of opportunities here for businesses to pull themselves ahead of their competitors.

For some businesses, it’s possible that their strategy is to simply compete primarily on price. But remember, that not all customers are after the lowest price. Furthermore, price may not always be the most important factor in some products and services.

We’re moving into an era where businesses critically need to be customer centric. Our local businesses must understand that.

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