Customer Service Vigilance or Customer Vigilantes: Your Pick

I’m sure to the two of them, I was just another customer complaining about a policy over which they felt they had control. That still did not excuse the weary and somewhat icy tone of voice they used in responding to my level-headed inquiries into the logic behind the practice. Instead of trying to find some way to help me, to address something they could say yes to, they clung mightily to saying no and spouting a policy that really seems to make no sense to me.

As you might expect, that type of response only fueled my already frustrated state of being. So I dashed off an email and a Direct Message on Twitter to the one person I know in the management of the organization, detailing what a poor customer service experience I had and the inconsistencies I perceive in the organization's policies. I hated to use my brief acquaintance with this person in this manner, but I was determined to get the organization to sit up and take notice about what was going on.

Futurist Faith Popcorn long ago coined the term vigilante consumer. As she aptly notes, “when disappointed, consumers can be formidable enemies.”

Like most individuals who bump into the bureaucratic machinery of a store or organization, I was a bit less interested in having my perspective validated as “right” and more interested in feeling that I had been truly heard and appropriately addressed. Organizations must get a grip on customer service operations so they don’t turn members or customers into enemies. That’s an untenable position from which it is very difficult to recover.

When I called to make my purchase, I was not an enemy of this organization. I wanted to give them my money, help fulfill their sales goals, have an exchange of value. How was I rewarded? Sent on my merry way because I was unwilling to be charged extra due to a policy which I believe is unfair.

If you find yourself nodding your head thinking of similar experiences you’ve had, let me offer a word of caution. While it would be easy to focus on the front-line folks as the poor deliverers of the customer service message, the real issue is the policy or practice itself. If it did not exist, the scenario I just outlined would never have occurred.

So give yourself—and your members and customers—a little back-to-school gift this year. Take one meeting in the next four weeks and invite every one on your staff and every other person who might be willing to join you in a single-minded pursuit: identifying and eradicating your organization of policies, procedures, and practices that get in the way of your members and customers obtaining value from you.

If you don't want vigilante customers, you must be more vigilant about customer service … and that includes eliminated bureaucracy and policies that get in the way of customers being served.