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Column: Good or bad, customer service can be memorable


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I recently tried to do the impossible.

That is, to reprogram a universal remote control without the help of a teenager from my own household (fresh out) or a young adult who goes from house to house in a small vehicle wearing a white shirt and tie (the person, not the car) and is paid handsomely for being a geek and knowing all that technology stuff.

Through the investment of many valuable weekend hours and stubborn perseverance over the remote-control issue, I also was reminded about a thing or two about customer service.

It’s frustrating when someone tries to help you but ultimately cannot because they aren’t trained well enough.

It’s frustrating when a tech-support person could reveal what you need to know but instead tells you to call the paid-support line because you have been a customer (in my case, owner of a universal remote control) more than 90 days.

Notice the common words that begin each point: “It’s frustrating.”

Republic employees work hard to provide each customer with a memorable experience.

Memorable in a good way, that is. Not in the way I just described.

There are simple expectations that we employ each day. They are not written down on a “cheat sheet” that we get out when someone walks in or calls in.

Instead, these expectations are becoming second nature in an effort to provide exceptional customer service at every opportunity.

Let’s start with some easy ones.

Be polite.

Be prompt.

Say “yes.”

That doesn’t sound that hard, does it?

When customers call to bring a problem to your attention, they are often at a critical point. Frustration has already set in, they are tired of excuses, and they want satisfaction.

Failure to respond the right way could cause you to lose their business.

Good customer service, however, allows you to keep the customers you have. And when your own customers tell others about the exceptional service they receive, word-of-mouth testimonials are going to bring even more customers to your door.

The Republic news department hears from customers throughout the day, every day.

Most often, people communicate today by email. It’s just easier to share information that way and more efficient, too.

But others like to call. And since my phone number is listed in the paper every day, I get to talk to a lot of readers.

Let’s recap the basic rules of good customer service.

BE POLITE: It comes down to listening and being empathetic. No one calls in hopes of getting into an argument. If someone makes a reasonable request, grant it.

BE PROMPT: Answer every incoming phone call within three rings rather than let it go to voice mail. If you are away from your desk, respond to every phone message or email within 24 hours — preferably the same day.

SAY “YES”: When someone provides information that could be of interest to our readers, we publish it. And we try to get it into print within a week after submission.

When subscribers call me personally with a problem to resolve, they will often begin by telling me how long they have taken the newspaper.

“I have been a Republic subscriber for 14 years,” one woman began the other day.

Can you imagine if I had abruptly interrupted her at that point and said something to this effect?

“Ma’am, before you go any further, I need to tell you that our company does not value longtime customers. Since it has been more than 90 days since you began your subscription, I am going to have to transfer you to our customer-

service toll booth. Please get your credit card ready, as you will be charged $9.99 for up to 15 minutes of assistance.”

Fortunately, The Republic does not treat its customers like some electronics vendors do.

If you need help or have an idea for a news story, give me a call. I will listen and do my best to assist.

Shouldn’t everyone?

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