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‘Feedback’ sharp lesson in customer service


25 February 2008

‘Feedback’ provides a sharp lesson in customer service for consumers and businesses

It’s called ‘feedback’ – an internet phenomenon started by the likes of TradeMe – and it means the average Kiwi can find their name ‘turned to mud in a heartbeat’ if their customer service is not up to scratch, and the same applies to the average business.

Managing Director of KiwiHost New Zealand, Simon Nikoloff, says a person ‘casually’ selling something over the internet, such as an unused heater or second hand clothing, can suddenly find themselves the recipient of a ‘neutral face’ or ‘sad face’ rather than a ‘smiley face’ if they don’t tread warily.

“There is a lesson in this for your traditional bricks and mortar businesses too. A good tip to business owners – and anybody contemplating selling something over the internet – is to take some time to browse feedback sites on the web. Note down what consumers say regularly and consistently, and this will give the ‘seller’ a good idea of what customers expect, and also what they don’t like.

“Relative anonymity allows customers to be very direct and ‘call it the way it is’. Feedback reveals some fascinating insights into what people are thinking and saying to their friends and colleagues, but they may never say those things to your face.

A brief examination of TradeMe, for example, suggests that many consumers favour ‘prompt’, ‘reliable’ and ‘friendly’ in their feedback on trades they make – three values that have always been the staple of good customer service.

“You will notice that on some auction sites, consumers have the ability to ask questions. Failing to answer questions promptly can lead to poor perception and possibly a ‘sad face’ once the trading is down – and that goes on what is virtually a permanent record in cyber space.”

Mr Nikoloff said it was interesting to note many of the ‘sad faces’accompanied comments that suggested the ‘seller’ had failed to follow-up on complaints.

“Our advice to the average consumer selling something over the internet and the average bricks and mortar business owner, is that when something goes wrong, fix it fast. A good simple process for fixing problems is called the KiwiHost’s 4 F’s of Solving Problems:

1. Feelings – understand the feelings of the person involved; listen, empathise and apologise.
2. Facts – clarify the problem, ask questions; get the facts.
3. Fix it – promise to do something about it, offer and agree on a solution. Thank the consumer for their patience.
4. Follow-up is critical – check the customer is satisfied. Learn from your mistakes.

“Technology developments such as the internet are being felt at the coalface of bricks and mortar businesses because consumers now have the power to spread the word like never before, but also because many consumers are learning, at the sharp end, what constitutes good customer service,” said Mr Nikoloff.


For more information:

About KiwiHost

Established in 1989, KiwiHost is New Zealand’s most experienced and best resourced customer service training organisation with expert facilitators located in 18 offices countrywide. KiwiHost facilitators deliver more than 20 specialised ‘great customer experience’programmes, regular scheduled workshops (including in-house on demand), to a wide variety of organisations and industries. Industries currently served by KiwiHost include the health sector, professional practises, retail, government departments, local authorities, tourism, couriers and freight, not-for-profit organisations and trades and services.

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