Sunday, 20 May 2012

Customer service, euphemisms and communicating the truth

Customer service is nothing if not communication. Poor communication means a poor customer experience. Clients do not wish to repeat poor experiences so, by extension, poor communication is one step closer to losing a client.
On the contrary, good customer experience often compensates – at least temporarily - for average product quality in other areas.
Now I am not suggesting firms compensate for shoddy products with superior communication skills. However, I am suggesting that firms be truthful with clients, both in intent and meaning.
A segment of the courier industry fails in its communications methods with clients, at least if my two recent experiences with the industry are any indication. (Ironic, especially given that couriers are an important link in the communications network for businesses.)
In both experiences, I enquired about the late delivery of the packages I was expecting. Both companies responded by stating they had 'attempted delivery' but failed. I don't know about you, but 'attempted delivery' to me suggests someone came to my door, rang the bell and left after they found no one home.
Surprisingly, upon further probing, I was informed that 'attempted delivery' does not signify someone came to your office or home and tried to deliver the document. It just means the package was with the delivery man in his vehicle but due to 'driver overload' the driver never made it physically to the delivery address.
Incidentally, 'attempted delivery' is also the language used by the companies' online tracking systems. In other words, by tracking the progress of my package on the firm's online tracking system I might even feel guilty for having missed the nice delivery man who came to my door at a precisely stated date and time (yes, such details are available on the online system!).

Baloney! The courier companies are simply using euphemisms to convey a misleading message to clients. 'Driver overload – deliver aborted' may be a better phrase to use for such cases.
In many circumstances, sugar coating bad news to make it more palatable is a legitimate communications strategy. However, using misleading language with an implicit (or explicit) to hoodwink customers is not appropriate in any situation.
Clients deserve the truth. The truth is not just good ethics but good business. Treat customers with respect and they will accept occasional failures. Treat them otherwise and they will not remain customers for long.

Imran is a business and management consultant. Through his work at Deodar Advisors, Imran improves the profitability of businesses operating in Singapore and the region. He can be reached at

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