I often write about customer service, but this month I'm writing about disservice.

During the Christmas holidays, I went into a cell phone retailer to pick up a new phone. While I was there, a customer was in a hurry to purchase a headset. He had the cash and proceeded to the checkout counter. He laid the cash on the counter and told the clerk that he didn't want the change.

The clerk refused to take the money - because he was helping me.

The manager told this customer that he would have to wait until another employee was available.

My transaction was done within a minute and the clerk started to help him. The clerk asked his telephone number to start the transaction. The customer became incensed. All he wanted to do was to pay for the headset and leave. He walked out of the store, leaving the merchandise. The store lost a sale because of an inane policy. It was a perfect example of customer disservice.

Help them out

Most companies want to make it easy for customers to buy. Here are four things you can do to make things easier on your customers:
  • Make a quick telephone call to schedule appointments. Most computer systems track customers by their telephone numbers. This makes it quick and easy to set appointments.
  • And don't keep customers waiting for a salesperson's call. Someone in the office should be able to schedule appointments for them. Show up when promised or call when technicians are going to be late. This is common courtesy.
  • Fix the problem right the first time. This is another common courtesy. Your rates will probably be among the highest in your company's area, but that's OK - it takes good technicians and training to ensure that problems get fixed right the first time.
  • Get rid of stupid policies like the one at the cell phone store. Look at how you do business. Make it easy for customers to buy from you and they'll refer you to others and buy from you again.
That brings me to a related subject: dispatch operations.

A dispatcher can make or break the profitability of the service department. He or she is the first person who talks with your current and potential customers.

Dispatchers are like parents to technicians. They know when technicians are in a bad mood, when they are having problems and just when "something" is wrong. Dispatchers also have to cajole, beg and at times, discipline.

They have to listen to technicians whine, beg and get mad. So give them a break. Make it easier for them to do their jobs by requiring they:
  • Dispatch one call at a time. For technicians to do their best taking care of customers and diagnosing problems properly, they need to be able to concentrate. If your technicians know they have a lot of homes to visit, their work might not be as thorough as it should be.
  • Debrief the technicians before giving them their next call. By dispatching one call at a time, dispatchers keep control. When technicians are finished, they can ask whether the ticket was signed or payment was collected and whether parts need to be ordered or if the job is completed. Finding out this information while the technicians are still at the worksite saves time.
  • Concentrate on building service-agreement sales. Dispatchers can start the process by asking residential customers whether they're getting a discount on the work. No one wants to pay full price if they don't have to. Dispatchers can say that technicians will explain the program when they visit the customer's home.