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Customer Service is in the small details.

[First published on StartupCentral]

It is easy to record B2C customer service experiences of big brands because they end up treating us all quite equally, if you’re using the common channels to work with them. When you’re dealing with a company that knows you personally, their little unintentional errors grab the spotlight in the overall preferential treatment.

Since I run an early stage startup, it is safe to say that I’m often under the radar for certain B2B businesses. Our tiny existence slips their minds, escapes their eyes and we get to see the other side of the story. And there are times when little things are paid little attention and they have the potential to hamper the entire service experience.

What does the customer experience cover?

It ideally covers every single interaction your organization is having with a third party. Customer service experience stems from the brand experience, which is all about the relationship you build with people & companies around you. If the consistency is maintained across clients and suppliers alike, you’re a winner.

Having a healthy customer service attitude is like having your organization at its best behavior, at all times. It is not unlike having your child being its obedient & polite best at all times. So if you keep the manners in check and the communication prompt & clear, you can sail through. Delight is the next step.

They never emailed, but only kept calling.

Sharing one of my recent experiences with a popular accounting & consulting company that provides services to startups across multiple cities. I was interacting with a certain department as a client for some work and had emailed them asking for a meeting on Friday. Then I emailed them again changing the date because loud Indian festivities are honey badgers for folks who want to work in peace. And then I waited for them to confirm.

It took two whole days for us to fix a date because,

  1. At first, they called me from an unknown number multiple times and attempted no alternate forms of communication for over 2 hours despite me not receiving the calls.
  2. My WhatsApp message (as a reply to the one they had sent for a query) asking for confirmation received no reply for 12 hours. Meeting was confirmed then over a text first, and then an instant message.
  3. Both my emails had received no reply till the very end.

The meeting, when it happened, was wonderful and efficiently concluded. They pampered me as a customer, ensured every issue was on the table and taken care of. However, this serious communication gap showcased by these delightful professionals will have me being much more careful while scheduling meets with them again. This leaves a slight sour taste in the mouth. Does it really matter? Depends on the customer.

When Sales Folks Get Cocky

We’ve all encountered the cocky sales team, with admirable persistence and patience while pushing through their calls and meetings. This episode occurred with one of our favorite green chemicals companies, and the sales manager might have had the best intentions in mind. However, the lack of command on written English can have its moments of miscommunication.

He called and texted me for two days, quite aggressively, asking for a meeting. I asked him to postpone it since it was difficult to meet due to prior appointments. Then he sends an email (Cc to his Directors) saying “have been trying to get in touch with you for the past two days, but have not been able to”. Now this statement can be interpreted as the customer not being easily accessible, which is not a healthy reputation for a young business. It was irresponsible and audacious for a sales manager to write such an email to a customer with his bosses in the Cc. Though I’ll keep sharing a healthy business relationship with this company and this sales team, this experience can leave a sour taste in the mouth.


A friend (Expedia customer) once received an abrupt email with a subject line that read ‘URGENT: PLEASE CALL Flight change for <full name>’. Surprised, she dropped them an email first. After no reply, she called up the mentioned number and was put on hold for over 60 minutes with IVR for company. I got into the picture some 20 minutes into this disaster and tweeted the handle attempting to get a reply. That’s when they promptly asked her to email the details.

She did and the first email bounced. The second one went through, but received no reply as well. After two days, they mailed her the details but it was unrelated to her two enquiries and endless calls.

This leaves a bitter taste in the mouth because the email was labeled as ‘URGENT’ but was without details. Emails sent to the company were unanswered. The customer was asked to call the company for her flight changes (why not email/text/call the customer directly with details?). In spite of calling them promptly, the customer was serenaded by the automated female voice that proved to be of no help whatsoever. And someone had to tweet in order to generate some response from Expedia.

Infibeam Logic err, Logistics

Though it has been a pretty decent no-nonsense experience, why did they address me as a username in the email? Why is there a grammatical error in the email (it’s, not its)? If I click on the complicated tracking code, it takes me to the tracking chart, which addresses me by my proper full name. Why make a username out of me in the email and remove the personal touch? Am I just a username for them?

Why give me the complicated tracking code that is hyperlinked to the page? Why throw those numbers and letters at my sensitive nerves? If my order gets lost in transit, can’t I call Infibeam and give them my account details and purchase details? A phone number or an email id can serve the purpose, perhaps? Why give me a tracking code that is hyperlinked?

Why make me talk to some courier company (IBL, in this case)? Why can’t I talk to Infibeam? They are shipping my book, I’m paying them, should not they be accountable for all my queries?

And oh, this exquisitely wrapped package was my Infibeam purchase. Their attention to detail and love for neatness is enviable. 

Little Things Matter in a Way We Can’t Imagine

Businesses will grow big and earn millions with a mediocre service culture. But as Seth Godin and other geniuses often put it- customer delight, building your own tribe, building a relationship out of excessive attention to detail is a game changing strategy to keep up in this new world. This post is not a rant. It simply highlights the basic communication shortfalls that stood as a difference between ‘good’ and ‘great’.


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