In 2016 Customer Service is more important than ever. In a world where you can buy anything you want with a couple of mouse clicks why would anybody take the time to visit their nearest high street and physically go into shops?

Recent research (CEI 2015) showed that 86% of customers would pay up to 25% more for a product if they were guaranteed great service. Take a moment to think about those two percentages and what that would mean to your bottom line.

But what is great service? Is it making sure you’re polite? Being helpful? Smiling at everybody that walks through the door? Well yes, it is, but it’s no good doing all this things and not actually giving the customer what the product or experience they want when they want. Customer satisfaction is a small part of the bigger customer service picture but if you’re customers aren’t satisfied will they buy from you in the first place, or even remain loyal to you?

Surely Customer Service and Customer Satisfaction are the same thing?

I have recently brought a new car. As anyone knows buying a car is a significant expense both financially and in the time it takes. First you have to figure out what type of car you actually want, narrow it down to a few models and then find out who the dealer is.

We wanted an electric car, both for environmental and financial reasons, electric cars suit our lifestyle and with the ever increasing cost of fuel in Guernsey we figured this would be good way of reducing our monthly expenses and perhaps doing a little bit to reduce our carbon footprint.

I did a bit of research about what cars were available on the market and who sold them. We made an appointment to test drive a couple and headed to the dealer.

Both models we test drove were great, and we decided that we would like to go ahead with buying one of them. Now the dealer had both models in stock as used vehicles, so we started the process of figuring out a price, what finance was available and what the trade in value of our current car was. During this process we established that one of the vehicles was 3 years old and the other had a higher mileage than we wanted. This ruled out both of the used vehicles for us and we would like to discuss a new vehicle, which we told the salesman and it was at this point that the whole experience started to fail.

Up until now, the service we had received had been fantastic, as much time as we wanted for test drives, great information about the features of both cars. Tea and coffee, kids were entertained by cartoons on the TV in the showroom, nice comfy sofas to sit on.

But the salesman didn’t actually listen to what we said. Instead of moving the conversation to new cars, he started to offer us better and better deals on both the cars we had ruled out, even going as far as offering us “one time only, make a decision now” type deals to try and get us to agree to buying one of the cars they had in stock. We continually tried to bring the conversation to new cars but he just wasn’t listening. In the end we left the showroom and went home, deflated and exhausted after 3 hours and not anywhere nearer to buying a car.

The following day we received a follow up call, again offering us a better deal on both the used cars. This call ended with a promise of another call and email with details of how much new models would be and what finance packages they would have in place.  We waited. And waited, and waited. By the end of the week, after 2 chase up calls and a 2 chase up emails we finally got a price for a new vehicle. But there were no details about finance or answers to some of the other questions we had asked. The email also had an even better offer on the cars we had already told him we weren’t interested in, as well as this line, “in my view, the best option for you would be to purchase the white car, this is the most suitable car for you”.

We gave up.

The next day, we went to another dealer, who imports cars from the mainland. He found us the exact model, specification and colour that we wanted, at a price that was better than anything the other garage had offered us on both the used cars and even offered to sell our existing car for us. This whole process took about 20 minutes from walking through the door to paying the deposit.  We took delivery of the car a week later.

So what does this experience show us about Customer Service?

Well the first dealer we went to did everything right, they were friendly, polite, left us to test drive the cars, gave us all the details we needed about the cars, kept us hydrated and the kids entertained. They even tried to give us the best possible deal on the car that they wanted to sell us. And that last sentence is the key to why we weren’t a satisfied customer. They wanted to sell us a particular car that we didn’t want to buy and would listen to us when we told them that.

We were prepared to buy a brand new car from them, but instead they lost out because the simply didn’t listen.

Customer Service isn’t just about being friendly and polite, being happy and giving the customer the best price. It’s about listening to your customers, answering their questions, responding to their feedback and ultimately giving them the product or service they want, when they want it.