Kudos to Casio customer service, inverse V-sign to Virgin Media's

Smarta is feeling slightly more zen-like than usual today. And it's all thanks to one phone call.
Having pilfered thousands of hours of our lives navigating Escher-esque labyrinths of customer service automated options, having languished whole days waiting for customer representatives to pick up the phone, finally it seems one company has got customer service spot on.

Casio's camera department gets three gold stars. We were having awful trouble with a camera battery, you see, that point blank refused to charge. Exhausted, exasperated and more than a little disappointed, we reluctantly resigned ourselves to the fact we'd have to give up the next 45 minutes to get through to someone who'd tell us to send an email to someone who would call us weeks later to tell us we had to buy a new one as we were outside our warranty.

Instead, we found ourselves calling an 0208 number, rather than an extortionate 0845 one. It was answered about as immediately as modern technology will allow, by a polite young gentleman who kindly informed us he would put a new battery in the postbox that day.

Quite the revelation. Now, the digital-camera buffs among you will point out the caveat here. The non-charging battery fault is well known in the echelons of Casio aficionados. The company should of course give you exemplary customer service because they'd previously made a mistake.

But many don't. Smarta had the unfortunate experience of being overcharged £220 for a phone line that didn't actually exist earlier this year, thanks to Virgin Media. Did they instantly recoup us with profuse apologies and a complimentary month of service? Did they billy-o. We had to spend almost an hour being transferred between departments, repeating the same problem to people who continued to try to either sell us more services or install ones we already had.

We then had to wait days until someone called us back by which point we got so stroppy we were put through to a higher level - only to be told we had to go to our bank to get the money back. Good job Virgin Media.

Now contrast a vision of the rage that left us with against the warm, satisfied feeling we were left with after dealing with Casio. It probably costs Casio significantly more to provide that level of customer service. But, boy, is it going to earn them more in the long term through customer loyalty and free marketing thanks to Smarta's appreciative tweet. Whereas Virgin Media gain nothing but a lost contract and a bad rep.

The motto of this story? If you make a mistake, it's not the end of the world, provided you immediately apologise and do everything you can to make it up to the customer in as painless and pleasing a way as possible.

But if you follow up a fault with service equitable with dog defecation - well, that's pretty much as bad as it gets for the customer. That is the end of the world.

And once you've grasped those fundamentals, you can start getting onto the really good stuff: monitoring unsolicited feedback like the above across social media, repsonding instantly to complaints, thanking people for positive comments, and gradually building yourself a fantastic reputation online.

That's what the very cleverest customer service departments around are doing at the moment. And it lets them respond in double-quick time, because they have employees monitoring and using the networks all day long. Now that provides great customer service. But more on that from Smarta soon...

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