Today is more of a discussion point than a product announcement, so carry on to another article if you want the nitty gritty about scooter bits. ;-) A word of warning, I am feeling a little philosophical today.
I just had an email dialogue with a customer that was quite upset that a wheel she was able to order online through our store was not actually in stock. I apologized earnestly in a couple of different emails and completely understand her frustration at the inability to get what she wanted - and had paid for!
In this day and age, we all expect our transactions to work, well, like a computer. A nice binary system where everything is black and white, yes and no, a "1" or a "0". In the digital realm where we spend so much of our time, it is, indeed, the very foundation upon which our systems are based.
Real life, however, is made up of interactions between people. And if ever there was an environment further away from binary purity, it would be the human one. On an individual basis, humans are incredibly error-prone. Whether it be a decision to say yes when we should say no, or whether to eat a salad instead of fries, or to give someone a hug instead of turning away, for a slew of incalculable reasons the right decisions are there in plain site - we just have to make them.
What the heck does all that have to do with customer service and why are you rambling on like a lunatic? (All good questions, by the way!)
Well, the incident mentioned at the outset of this article led me to ponder the meaning of customer service for more than a moment. The concept of customer service is, ultimately, simple - much like our binary systems above - "Make your customer happy!". The reality is, of course, infinitely more nuanced and complex.
Our reality is that we run Canada's largest online scooter store while simultaneously running Ontario's largest bricks and mortar scooter store inside of one of Ontario's most durable and successful bike shops. Managing the complex interaction of orders coming and leaving through our doors on a daily basis is, as you can imagine, an immense logistical task. Our systems are certainly not perfect and nor are our people - and most certainly not myself!
Throughout the day - typically on an hourly basis - we update our online inventory to reflect what products have left through the retail store. With such a dynamic system, there are certainly a handful of items at any given moment that appear "available" online that are actually no longer in stock. The unlikely (unlucky?) timing of one particular order can have a major impact on perceived customer service. For proof of this, consider the existence of this very article.
From the perspective of this rambling narrative, the interesting part is what happens now. Right now - the moment of realization that we simply cannot, in a timely way, fulfill a customer's order - is the defining moment in how our relationship with a given custom will unfold. We pick up the phone (or keyboard, as the case may be) and make contact in hopes that we can offer a remedy satisfactory to all involved. Our goal is, as always, the elusive customer satisfaction.
The irony here is that the next step goes right back to where we started. The focus shifts aways from the black and white binary world and refocusses on the human element - and it all becomes much harder to nail down tight.
It is no longer all about me or my staff - it is also about the customer. Some people are disappointed but understanding. Some people really do not mind at all and happily make a substitute. And, in the worst case for us, some people are downright angry. In each of these circumstances, we aim to please and to make the best of each particular situation. Fortunately, as a customer-focussed company that has a top notch team universally driven to thrill our customers, we usually manage a happy resolution.
But, for those times we just cannot come to a mutually beneficial solution, we all take it to heart and evaluate what went wrong. And at the end of it all, I think that this reflection, that this time spent pondering how to get it right next time, this is the hallmark of a business looking to do right by it's customers.
We will never be perfect in life, but we will always aim to keep you all smiling!
Check out our new Testimonials page! I think we are doing something right. :-)
(Did anyone actually read that all?)