7 big business customer failings you wouldn’t get from an SME

Shopping on your local high street isn’t just about supporting independent retailers, it’s about customer service and a much more enjoyable consumer experience. In fact, big businesses have many customer service practices that would make the average small business owner shudder. Here’s Real Business list of the corporate customer services failings you would (probably) never get from an SME.

Staff don’t offer advice…

This happened to me last week when I was trying to buy a laptop from a major electronics retailer. Not only was I left languishing in front of the laptops as a series of shop attendants walked past ignoring my “please come help me” smiles, but when someone did come over they didn’t even know what they were talking about. 

…or good conversation

There’s nothing like meeting the owner of a specialist store that can wax lyrical about wine, toy cars, mobile phones or whatever their specialism is for hours. Plus there’s that personal touch, if employees are invested in their business for the long term because they’re the owner or the care about whether that person succeeds they’re more likely to remember a customer, have a conversation and build a relationship. 

No phone number

It’s incredible how difficult it is to get hold of the phone number or address of a big company. In fact, they often go to great lengths to make it difficult to contact them directly through any other means than a generic email form that shoots your concern out into the ether. With software companies this means forcing you through a flow diagram of questions and answers. 

Automated phone answering services

Automated phone answering services help save time, but there’s nothing like the scale of the multi-layered nightmare’s banks and other large organisations are using today. Getting the combination that’ll take you through to an operator is like low-level safe cracking and more often than not you end up at a dead end with nothing but a recorded message.

Letter duplication

The volume of letters being generated by database systems is astounding and it’s even worse if your partner happens to have a membership or account with the same business. It’s not personalised beyond your name, they’re often not relevant to your account and letters always seem to completely ignore the last conversation you had.

Outsourced call centres

There’s nothing wrong with outsourcing in itself, and you often stumble across a really helpful customer service agent. The problem is outsourced call centres tend to be the first line of defence, the cheapest workers with the least training who often don’t have the power to solve a complaint. 

Instead you’re left working through the flow diagram of things that are really obvious – “have you tried logging in and logging out again?” – before they refer you to the actual customer service department that will phone you back when you’re in a meeting ten days from now. 

Lack of personality

There’s been a big push on shopping locally over the past few years and the argument for using smaller retailers work for almost every industry from power companies to car dealerships. The fact is SMEs are competing on service, they aren’t taking things for granted and they tend to have more personality. That means a genuine ethos that reflects why the owner went into business, not some carbon copy corporate principals that were written by a faceless marketing department.

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