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How to Look Incompetent to a Customer

  • March 10, 2020
  • Written by Community Futures Meridian

Here’s the story of a company that tried its best but ended up losing the confidence of its customer. Your company can be committed to customer service excellence, it can be committed to delivering quality, but if your staff don’t know their stuff, you will lose the confidence of your customer. Our storyteller is a middle-aged man from British Columbia.

The other day I bought an over-the-range microwave online from a major big box store and was amazed to discover how little the company’s staff knew about what they were selling. Now, I didn’t expect the customer service rep to understand how microwaves work, but I did expect him to know what extended warranty was applicable from the list of those available on their website. After consulting with his supervisor, he eventually came back with an answer. And, taking his advice, I promptly purchased the suggested warranty along with the oven.

Once the microwave arrived the accompanying paperwork prompted me to register my warranty with the insurance company. This was a problem because the insurance company’s site did not recognize my product code. Before I could contact a real person at the company, I got an email from the big box store stating I had purchased the wrong warranty. Not pleased, I called them and agreed to purchase the higher priced warranty that they told me was applicable. A few days later I received yet another email from the store announcing that the insurance company had informed them that microwaves were in fact not covered by extended warranties.

As you can imagine I was none too happy as by this stage I’d wasted a great deal of time on something that should have been simple.

This catalogue of errors occurred due to a lack of knowledge and training – the big box store employees and even their concierge department lacked sufficient knowledge. Lack of knowledge was obvious all the way through. There was a catalogue of knowledge gaps.

  • How was this man able to purchase a warranty on an item that could not be covered, in the first place?
  • Why were the several choices of warranty with insufficient guidance? Wouldn’t it be easy to list which warranties are applicable to a specific product and even easier to list those products on which no warranty is available?
  • Why did the customer service rep not know microwaves were not covered?
  • Why did the supervisor not know this?
  • How did the person in the concierge department not know this?

Dozens, if not hundreds of other customers must have been through this experience. The waste of their time, and that of the company’s staff must be considerable.

In all fairness, we should add that our buyer in this case reported that the staff he dealt with were all friendly and helpful, not to mention apologetic every step of the way. It was a lack of knowledge, not a lack of customer care that made the company look as if it didn’t know what it was doing. This is a case of a company shooting itself in the foot for no good reason.

Whether your business is small or large, you and the people who work for you need to be knowledgeable about your company and the products and services you sell. If not, you’re going to look foolish in the eyes of your customers and worse, you are going to appear incompetent.

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