Service of the [Very] Good, the [Extremely] Bad and the Ugly: A Real Estate Tale

March 2nd, 2015

Categories: Customer Care, Customer Service, Real Estate, Uncategorized

real estate

We recently worked with two New York City-based real estate agents. Rating their performances from one to 10 they represented the top and bottom of the spectrum. One agent, Linda Gawley, Managing Director, Charles H. Greenthal Management & Residential Sales, spent hours mopping up the mess left by the other who was careless and disrespectful of both our agent’s time and of us.

Her aggressive lack of participation was clearly a cause for kudos by the agency she works for. Make money by doing and spending nothing? Congrats! That’s the crystal message we got from the executive at the major New York real estate company who responded to our complaint letter.

Do nothing and get paidIn our letter we asked that this agency refund the fee. We heard that it’s not a practice for one agency to pay another in such an instance so we offered the option to return the money to us. Their answer: “No.”

The agent lived in her client’s condo apartment and was leaving. We wanted to sublet it and to do so we needed approval of the apartment owner and the building’s board of directors. Following is an abbreviated list of her elementary mistakes that jeopardized our move-in date and caused us inordinate stress.

Our agent remained calm and courteous even when snapped at. We knew something was up when Ms. Gawley questioned the spelling of the apartment owner’s name on the lease. It was an unusual interpretation of a French name. [My father was French so I noticed it.] “It’s correct,” barked Ms. ___ during a conference call we were in on. In fact, it was incorrect, so our certified deposit checks were inaccurate as well. This kind of sloppiness followed and tripped us up throughout the process.

The  apartment’s owner–Ms. ____’s client–wanted to meet us across the street from her office/apartment. She wasn’t free so Ms. Gawley squeezed in the appointment to her schedule. Ms. ___ had not given her client a copy of the lease we signed nor had she warned Ms. Gawley to bring one so when he asked for one, Ms. Gawley appeared unprepared—something she never is.

Because of delays caused by Ms. ___’s carelessness on February 1 we did not know whether we would have access to the apartment or if we had been approved by the building’s board of directors and therefore, whether the movers would be allowed in the building on Monday February 2.

Our board package was not submitted promptly because Ms. ___ hadn’t counseled her client to sign either the standard lead paint or child guard disclosure forms, discovered at the final hour. In the response, the real estate executive did not refer to this glitch.

She brought up another one. She wrote: “Unfortunately, we sleeping at desk 2encountered a big snag at this point which caused us a delay. Upon review, the managing agent discovered that the owner of the apartment was not carrying the proper insurance. This is highly unusual, because it’s imperative for all owners to have valid insurance at all times, so of course it was completely unknown to Ms. ____. This is the purview of the managing agent, not the listing agent, and it would not be in Ms. ___’ typical scope to verify the insurance.” I underlined the words “typical scope” because I thought they were clever. What is her scope? How seasoned an agent was she?  Since she lived in the same place for a period of time, was she there legally?

We wanted to know where we would be living in the city [our weekend home requires a five hour commute round trip] but that was only the half of it. Should we cancel the movers [who had already stored our belongings for a week] and Verizon/Fios, which we ordered for move-in day so we might be connected to the world? What about business appointments  later that week–would we be free to make them or would we be waiting for the movers?

In the agency’s response, the executive wrote: “On the 30th, Ms. ____ received verbal confirmation from the Board President that the waiver had been signed, which she immediately relayed to your agent.  Did your agent not relay that information to you?”

Given Ms. ____’s slipshod track record, and the fact that the building’s managing agent couldn’t verify the information, Ms. Gawley wasn’t about to suggest that our movers park outside the building first thing Monday February 2 until she knew for sure they would be allowed in. She asked that we delay the movers to Monday afternoon. They lost a morning of work and had to leave [house rules] before they were done. When the Fios technician came he didn’t have our computer, phones and TV to connect them causing costly repercussions for us.

411 sink Feb 1“Broom clean,” was not the way Ms. ___ left the apartment. Illustrative of her modus operandi see the photos at right and below left of just some of the things we found. They don’t capture the dirty towel on the bathroom floor and filled coffee cups and water bottles. In her letter the executive wrote, “she apologizes that her movers left a few items behind.” 

Ms. ____ had told us she was moving a few blocks away as well as to Connecticut but obviously didn’t relay the former info to her employer who claimed that from Connecticut she couldn’t have conveniently checked how the movers left the apartment. Funny: We’d just moved out of a city apartment followed by a two hour drive upstate in a blizzard and left not a spec of dust behind much less garbage bags worth of stuff.

411 stuff left behindThat Ms. ___was snarky and never apologized to us for her [in]actions was as grievous to me as the time she stole from Ms. Gawley and the stress she caused us. I also had a bad reaction to the patronizing tone of the executive’s letter, i.e. “Moving is always stressful.”  Between us my husband and I have moved some 50 times, sometimes across oceans, into property we’ve rented or owned, yet neither of us has experienced a move as bad as this.

I am tempted to write “The Haggler” in The New York Times’ Sunday Business Section but I want the episode behind me. If you need a great agent to buy or sell property I’ll put you in touch with Linda Gawley. Bad agents work all over, not just in NYC—I’ve hired and heard about lousy ones. Haven’t you?

Does someone in a service business–like real estate agent, PR or advertising exec–owe counseling to their clients or has it become yet another area where the client is expected to know everything and to get zero guidance and direction from the specialist?

Service of Birthday Cards

February 26th, 2015

Categories: Birthday Cards, Greeting Cards, Humor

Greeting cards 1

I haven’t been to a card shop in a while because I buy a lot of greeting cards at Trader Joe. I like the illustrations of the artists they select, the sentiments as well—many make me smile–and the paper quality is excellent. Further, you can’t beat the price: $.99.

In addition, thanks to a wonderful present from my friend Erica Martell, I have a subscription to jacquielawson.com. These e-cards are fabulous.

greeting cards 2On a recent visit to a traditional card shop with a large selection I had to pull out and read too many before finding one I could buy. I was flabbergasted by the number that celebrated how great it is to drink too much on your birthday. Is drunkenness funny? [They were in the “funny card” section.] I mentioned this to colleague David Reich and he observed that eating too much is also touted on cards. Another bunch were written for adult first graders: They peddled scatological noises.

New Yorker Card 1Maybe the cold weather has frozen my sense of humor. I love receiving and giving witty cards. I’ve found some amusing ones at stratospheric prices–$6-$8/each–without a birthday greeting that I have adapted for the purpose. I also use note cards bought at museums, but they aren’t funny, just pretty. The New Yorker cartoon cards, [photo left and below], when you can find them, are super. They are blank inside so like museum note cards, not strictly for birthdays.

None of the birthday cards at the large store evoked even half a ha. Have you noticed this about the current crop of popularly priced choices? Does nobody mail them anymore? I like to display the ones people send me or my husband. They make me happy long after the occasion is over. And you?

greeting cards 4

Service of a Surprisingly Good Hotel Stay: Residence Inn Marriott NYC

February 23rd, 2015

Categories: Customer Care, Customer Service, Hotels, Uncategorized

Residence Inn Marriott NY

As we live in Manhattan we haven’t had the chance to try out any of its hotels in many years. We needed to spend one night in a hotel the other week in between apartment moves and were happily surprised to find one–Residence Inn Marriott–through hotels.com in midtown, 148 East 48th Street, at a modest price: $119+ tax.

Residence Inn Marriott NY 2Our stay came with a bunch of bonuses: A generous breakfast, an upgrade to a room with a balcony and view of the top of the Chrysler Building and a kitchen with plates, glasses, a stove and fridge. Between snow on the balcony and frigid temperatures outside we didn’t take advantage of the terrace and we weren’t there long enough to use the kitchen but still. Busy guests could leave at the front desk a list of groceries to stock in their room.

The night we were there we didn’t hear another soul.

Residence Inn Marriott NY 3The room was decorated simply and was spotless. The Wi-Fi worked in an instant. The staff was friendly, welcoming and we were impressed.

In the morning we expected that the free breakfast would consist of coffee and a cheap Danish wrapped in cellophane. Were we wrong. The breakfast room was bustling with contented guests, [perhaps as amazed as we were], some seated on bar stools at bar height tables with a TV on the wall tuned to the morning news; others at tables; still others on sofas around a fireplace. There were free newspapers too. The food choices, served cafeteria style, ranged from bagels, English muffins and bread you could toast; juices; coffee/tea; fresh fruit; cereal; yogurt as well as Belgian waffles, scrambled eggs, sausage and potato. And there was an assortment of fresh Danish.

What surprised me most was the breakfast staff. They cleared tables so that the next wave of guests would have a clean place to eat but they did much more. One asked a man who was alone with a baby and encumbered with bags–clearly beached at his table–if he might get him something. Another approached us and volunteered if we knew that we could have gluten and lactose free options.

The staff seemed happy at their jobs.

We didn’t know what to expect or whether to have high expectations given the price and were stunningly surprised. Have you had a similar happy experience at a hotel in a big city—or anywhere for that matter?

Residence Inn Marriott NY 4

 

 

Service of Atmosphere: What Your Instincts Tell You When Entering a Restaurant

February 19th, 2015

Categories: Ambiance, Customer Care, Customer Service, Restaurant

Entering a restaurant

We recently ate out in a single neighborhood every night for a week at restaurants we’d either never before tried or hadn’t been to in a long while. We were greeted with smiles and ate delicious food at La Mangeoire [French], Parnell’s [Irish], Peak [Thai], Ali Baba’s Terrace [Turkish] and Pho Saigon [Vietnamese]. 

La Mangeoire

La Mangeoire

There was one restaurant that took us by surprise. It had been a Belgian bistro and we walked inside without paying attention to the name change and immediately realized it wasn’t what we’d expected. It now sported hints of Asian décor mixed with cheap eclectic and leftover bistro. In short, it had no personality.

It was almost empty—one person waiting for a friend at a very long bar and a few tables had guests. It was therefore strange that nobody seemed pleased we’d come. There was zero scent of food nor did we see any being served. It did not portend to be a night out among neighbors who anticipated a good meal.

Parnells Irish Pub

Parnells Irish Pub

We were given the drink menu immediately and had to wait for the longest time to see the waiter again to get a dinner menu. With menus in hand, finally, we realized we were in a Japanese steakhouse [though you could have fooled us as we didn’t see a single Japanese person on staff or among the customers]. The $15/oz with 3 oz minimum Kobe beef dinner was featured in 48 point type and the first choice we saw. We quickly became aware that this was at the very high end of the neighborhood’s restaurant price range with neither ambiance nor service to match the prices. 

Ali Baba's Terrace

Ali Baba’s Terrace

We heard a long discussion between staff and two young women about where they could sit.  [There were four empty tables where the women pointed and any discussion seemed unnecessary.] Two characters dressed by central casting as gang members complete with baseball-style caps on backwards and jackets with threatening logos paced a sitting area, chatting on their phones.

Our food, while overpriced, was excellent but we couldn’t wait to leave and will never return. My husband gives the place one year. We decided it must have been selling more than food or maybe all the regular staff called in sick.

Have you been to a restaurant without personality where everything seemed off? Or to a place in which you felt unwanted from the get-go?

Pho Saigon

Pho Saigon

Service of When it is Good it is Very, Very Good: Amazon.com at Its Best

February 16th, 2015

Categories: Customer Service, E-Commerce

very good

My confidence in large companies was restored when I responded to a notice Amazon.com sent me because my credit card information didn’t work for an order placed three months before. They needed a new one to ship it.

My response was more complicated than “here’s the new number.” I easily found on the Amazon website how to contact someone. Most large companies make you work for this information and often you fail to find it. Amazon gave me a choice.

emailingI chose email.

I explained that:

 

  • 1) I no longer wanted the book. I’d ordered it early in October and received a notice in November that if I didn’t again hear from them by December 15, the book wasn’t available. Meanwhile, I later saw a paperback of the book, ordered it and received it from Amazon early in January.
  • 2) My credit card number had changed since early October, I wrote, because of the hacking at Home Depot requiring millions to get new cards and numbers. I noted that Amazon has my new number, as I’d made several purchases since October.

In minutes I received a gracious email response from Pratik K saying he had cancelled the order. I thanked him, and he again responded and when I took 20 seconds to fill out my satisfaction-with-the-correspondence survey linked to his note, and wrote how remarkable and fast the service was, I quickly received an email from Khay C.

Khay wrote: “Thanks for writing back with your kind words. I’m glad to hear that my colleague, Pratik K., was able to assist you, and I’ll be sure to forward your message. We want to provide service on a level customers will remember, and it’s great to know we’ve succeeded. Your comments are greatly appreciated, and I thank you for choosing Amazon.com. We look forward to seeing you again soon!”

Has your confidence in customer service been similarly restored recently by a comparable instance?

Confidence 2

 

Service of Chutzpah

February 12th, 2015

Categories: Chutzpah, Some Nerve

Some nerve

Ring a Ding Dong

A friend sent me this email which inspired today’s topic. I think most people know the definition of chutzpah, but just in case: “Unmitigated effrontery or impudence; gall. 2. Audacity; nerve,” according to the Urban Dictionary.

She wrote:

Caller“I have an idea for your blog on phone etiquette, about calling people on their office line or at home and then, if they get voicemail, immediately dialing their cell phone.

“This happened this week to me from a woman I hardly know–she had also written me an email alerting me/or warning me that she’d be calling.

“It’s presumptuous of someone to be so pushy [unless in an emergency]. I was under the gun, had no intention of answering my office line until I’d met a deadline when I hear my cell phone ring. I thought this was nervy and didn’t answer and then she shoots off another email. I was obviously either busy, on another line or out of the office.

“What did she want to speak with me about you wonder: She wanted FREE advice.

“Addendum: We finally spoke, and she asked for a meeting and then cancelled the appointment we’d made. She has not responded to my email with suggested alternate dates and it’s been hours.”

You’re Kidding

Work for freeA woman I know, [unlike my friend’s caller in the example above whom she hardly knew], who works for an ad agency, left me a message: “You’re busy, but can you call me back because I have a few questions. We hired someone to write a press release but I have no confidence in either the copy or the writer.”

Did she forget that’s one of the services my agency offers? I’ve happily edited memos [for free] and shared insight on industries I’m familiar with and helped find her an intern so I suppose it’s my fault that she figured there’s no end to my largesse. Newsflash: There is. Folks need to know where to draw the line.

Can you share examples of chutzpah? It feels good to get the instance off your chest, right? Do you think people are clueless when they irritate others by going too far? Do you point it out to them or let it go?

 Chutzpah

Service of It Must Be Good: It’s Expensive Part II

February 9th, 2015

Categories: Marketing, Medical Care, Medicine

placebo

The previous post covered wine, this one medical treatment.

What a Pill

“When patients with Parkinson’s disease received an injection described as an effective drug Getting an injectioncosting $1,500 per dose, their motor function improved significantly more than when they got one supposedly costing $100, scientists reported,” wrote Sharon Begley in “Expensive’ placebo beats ‘cheap’ one in Parkinson’s disease” on reuters.com.

“Underlining the power of expectations, the motor improvements, measured by a standard Parkinson’s assessment, occurred even though both injections contained only saline and no active ingredients.

“The research, said an editorial in the journal Neurology, which published it, ‘takes the study of placebo effect to a new dimension.’”

Of the dozen volunteers in the study, observed neurologist Alberto Espay, the greatest improvement happened for the eight who expected the expensive drug to be more effective. The other four, who didn’t anticipate benefits, showed little change, wrote Espay, University of Cincinnati, who led the study.

In your experience, what part of a successful treatment for illness involved the mind and what the medicine? If you pay a lot for a drug, treatment or physician, are you more confident that the results will be positive?

leaving a hospital

 

Service of It Must Be Good: It’s Expensive Part I

February 5th, 2015

Categories: Marketing, Prices, Wine

Napa Valley vineyards 2

I came upon two examples that illustrate the belief that some maintain: If something costs a lot the service or product must be good.

Here’s the first one:

Bottoms Up!

Vindu Goel wrote about one of the most valuable grapes produced in this country, cabernet cabernet s grapessauvignon from the Napa Valley. A bottle of the wine costs $100 vs. $25-$30 for a good one from grapes grown next door in the Lake Country, he wrote.

The price, according to Goel in The New York Times, “is based more on consumers’ belief in the superiority of the region’s grapes than in the inherent quality of the liquid in the bottle.” Master sommeliers such as Emmanuel Kemiji concur. Kemiji is one of 220 master sommeliers in the world and he observed that he would “find it nearly impossible to discern the true geographic origin of a well-made cabernet.”

[A friend hated it when her dad poured cheap wine into a fancy bottle for dinner parties and she would cringe when a guest complimented him on his choice and on the wine.]

Goel’s story, “In Vino Veritas. In Napa, Deceit,” is about more than this wine. It’s about a charming con-man, Jeff Hill, Hill Wine Company, who took investors and partners to the cleaners, which the title foretells.

I have been a discount shopper since the dark age so I tend to be less of a proponent of “if it’s expensive it must be good,” and more enthusiastic about something that appears wonderful at a reasonable price. Have you found yourself falling for or appreciating wine, or something else that is expensive, simply because it costs a lot? What else?

I will share an example in the world of healthcare in my next post.

cabernet s in a glass

 

Service of Funny Headlines

February 1st, 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

funny headlines 4

You expect great headlines from the New York Post. Here are a few I picked out in just two issues: 

  • REV-OLTING– NYers rip Al & Lynch alike in 1st poll on cops. [Al Sharpton and PBA union leader Patrick Lynch, whose approval ratings among NYers were 29 and 18 percent respectively.]
  • FLU JAB A SHOT IN DARK Only 23% effective
  • Taxes a $oar point for NYC homeowners
  • BUST IN LI ‘WHO DONUT? Detective foils duo’s Dunkin’ ‘heist spree’
  • SCIENCE FRICTION Church of Scientology blasts ‘biased’ HBO film
  • HUNGRY FOR LOVE ‘Cannibal Cop’ on Match.com
  • JFK baby is air-born. [This is about a passenger who had a baby on a Royal Jordanian flight to NY.]
  • It’s Gov’s holy rail. [About Governor Cuomo’s proposed AirTrain project]
  • BILL’S TOUT SWEET ON COPS Kisses up to Paris police in whirlwind

Funny headline 3Sometimes other papers slip in a funny. Here are some:

  • Baby Bananas Split A Bunch of Discerning Shoppers– Wall Street Journal
  • Hospital for Special Surgery Opens New Joint in Conn– Crainsnewyork.com
  • “Pulled Pork a Drag on Sales”–AMNY
  • “Suit Cries Fowl Over Promotion of ‘Duck Dynasty’ Iced Tea–Wall Street Journal          

Do you love clever–or inadvertently silly–headlines as much as I do? Have you seen any lately that made you smile or slap your head? Wouldn’t it be fun to write hilarious headlines?

funny headline 5

 

Service of Putting Yourself in Someone Else’s Shoes

January 29th, 2015

Categories: Customer Care, Customer Service, Customers, Technology, Uncategorized

Someone else's shoes

In one day two things happened that made me wonder about customer service programs that don’t take into consideration routine customer habits.

Pennies Wise

Does the person who configures the electronic customer service systems for large corporations think about where people might be and what information they’d have access to when they call to request a repair? Not everyone is at the office or at home with a file cabinet filled with past bills handy.

During an ice storm our phone at the house went dead. When, the next day, we could get out and into ice stormthe car by treading carefully on a glossy rink on flagstones worthy of Rockefeller Center, successfully coaxing the car up an icy driveway slope to the road, we were able to call Verizon to report the problem by mobile phone. [Verizon cell phones don’t work at the house so we drove to a place they do.]

Before we could speak with a person—I began slamming 0000000 to get out of the computer voice maze that wasn’t in the slightest advancing the cause to repair my dead phone—the irritating recorded voice asked for our account number. I didn’t have it with me. Next it asked for the amount of the last bill. I hadn’t memorized this either.

First petDoes the person who set up the system, meant to reduce live staff time, commit such info to memory? What happened to “what’s the name of your first pet?” or “your mother’s maiden name?”

I was fuming as I waited to speak with a customer service representative. The call should have taken a second and I’d already been on hold for 600. I was, after all, reporting that the service wasn’t working. So was this the best time to alert me that the rep might tell me about additional services?

I explained to the live person–who may have been sitting in sunny Florida and unaware of icy conditions in upstate NY–that the outage clearly was weather-related and nothing to do with “our equipment” and she insisted that someone be home for a technician to come to the house. So I made an appointment.

Meanwhile, I called the house and heard a constant busy signal for a few more hours. Finally the phone rang and our answering machine kicked in. Hooray! A working phone.

When I called to cancel the appointment I did it through the voicemail system. The only question the recorded voice asked was why I’d cancelled: “Was your equipment the reason for the failure?” I hollered “NO.” There were no options such as “The phone works now.”

Much Ado About My Package

USPSI asked Amazon.com to send an order to my office. On Sunday I received a notification that the USPS had tried to deliver it on Saturday and nobody was there to sign for it. On Saturday the USPS doesn’t send mail to any office in this 18-floor midtown Manhattan building—so why would it send a package?

I clicked the link in the notification to fill out the info needed to get someone to redeliver the package and after doing that I clicked something else on the form where I learned that the USPS doesn’t redeliver to this building.

post office at grand centralThe next morning I visited our 10017 post office, a big one next to Grand Central Station, on 44th and Lexington Avenue. A helpful postal worker punched in the 17 tracking numbers in a computer on the floor and said, “It’s at 10022.” I asked for the address of that post office. “You can’t go there—it’s not open to the public.” I told him that it says on line that the USPS won’t redeliver to 228 East 45th Street. He said, “Wait. There’s nothing you can do but wait.” So I did. And after all of that, the package arrived with the mail the next business day.

Technology without thought doesn’t save staff time and it doesn’t help customers.

How can a company like Verizon that handles incredible amounts of technology accept a  customer service telephone application that is customer tone deaf and doesn’t free up its live staff? What was the point of the misleading USPS online information and links other than to cause me to waste time?

tone deaf

Get This Blog Emailed to You:
Enter your Email


Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Clicky Web Analytics