Your Latest Customer Complaint is a Gift

by Barry Moltz on February 21, 2011

Today’s guest post is from Charlie Kocher of the Curry Coastal Pilot, Brookings, Oregon.

“So at the end of the conference Tuesday, as Barry Moltz was winding up his customer service presentation, I was busy making one last note. Suddenly, I understood that Moltz had been asked to make a special presentation on behalf of Hospitality 101, which sponsored his visit to Brookings.Being the reporter on scene, I was grabbing the camera out of the case and turning it on to take a photo. Suddenly, I realized he was talking about me. Contrary to his introduction, the nice shiny plaque is actually made out to the entire staff at the Curry Coastal Pilot for our “outstanding commitment to customer service.” Not an hour earlier, Moltz had made the point that good customer service is a moving target, that it might mean something different to any particular customer at any given moment.

I remember thinking at the time that the numbers work against us. We have somewhere close to 15,000 advertisers and readers with every issue of the Curry Coastal Pilot and www.CurryPilot.com. We deliver two completely new products every week, with about 400 news items and advertisements in every issue, some of which range to several hundred words. From a misspelled word to a newspaper that gets wet, there are thousands of ways in which we can make a mistake in a single week. That’s not an excuse; it’s simply a reality of our business. We try very hard to get it right – accurate and timely information – with every item in every issue delivered to every doorstep.

So the brand of customer service that I learned long ago from another newspaper publisher is simple:?Treat every complaint as a gift. The rationale is simple. Since we want to get it right, it is wonderful when one of our customers is willing to take the time to help us do just that. As Moltz pointed out in his presentation, it does not mean that the customer is always right, nor does it mean that the customer is always wrong. Treating every complaint as a gift means listening to customers respectfully and investigating every problem honestly. Often, what we find helps us to either correct the record, fix the problem or understand the customer’s expectations.

We have some other “house rules” at the Pilot to help foster customer service. We use customer service with each other, as well as with readers and advertisers. We report problems as soon as we know about them. We assess situations, not blame, and fix problems, not hide them. We can get angry at machines, but not people. We take up problems in person or by phone – never by email. We try not to let doing something the right way – following rules – get in the way of doing the right thing.

 These are the things that create good customer service for the Curry Coastal Pilot and its customers. What Moltz calls “the customer service manifesto” is different for every business. And if a Wild Rivers Coast business needs help creating its own brand of customer service, just call Hospitality 101. They will be happy to help.”

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