Every organization will have to deal with customer issues at one time or another since no one and nothing is perfect. These product or service problems can be caused by anything from computer malfunctions to failure by a supplier to deliver.
How you handle these issues will depend on when you discover them. For example, if you discovered that your supplier delivered defective products after they shipped, your strategy would be much different than if you found out about the defects before they shipped. Obviously, you would prefer not to have any problems, but if you did, then you would rather know about them before they affected your customers.
One business owner I was working with, admitted that his strategy was to let his customers identify the problems for him. He is in the technology business, and he said he just did not have the time or money to do the checking before delivering. It was cheaper to let the customers help him ferret out any issues.
I was in his office one day when all his phone lines lit up. He had just issued a software update that morning, and it was not working. His employees spoke with each customer in an effort to isolate the problem and resolve their issues individually.
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As I watched this sit
uation play out, I asked the business owner what would be done about all the customers who did not call in. He said he did not know but that he would get an update out to everyone as soon as they could isolate and address the problem.
When I asked him about the firm's sales and how satisfied his customers were, he said his sales were flat and he had no idea how his customers felt about the firm or the service. Clearly there was an issue here with the quality of customer service being delivered.
Customers do not care about the reasons behind a problem or how you are going to solve it. All they want to know is that their needs are being met. That is why waiting for customers to tell you about a problem is a sure recipe for financial distress.
If your business provides any kind of product or service, you must have a system in place that allows you to detect and identify problems before they happen. This requires that products and services are tested at every point in the production and delivery channel so you are able to catch issues before they reach the customer.
To give an example, if I am selling home air conditioners, I need to constantly monitor the products that are coming in so I can correct any quality issues before they go out to my customers. This is absolutely critical if I want them to be satisfied and come back the next time they need my services.
Jerry Osteryoung, a consultant to businesses, is Jim Moran professor of entrepreneurship (emeritus) and professor of finance (emeritus) at Florida State University. Reach him at email@example.com.