Archive for the ‘Customer Service’ Category

Service of Sisterhood: Does it Exist?

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

Image by Jacquelynne Kosmicki from Pixabay

Drives me nuts when women don’t treat women as well as they do men. Fortunately I don’t notice it that often in restaurants and stores. I last wrote about a particularly irritating instance in 2015 in “Service of Sales Promotions: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” In my example of “ugly” a young woman attended to a man when a woman was next in line.

I write today about one of my favorite places, Trader Joe’s Manhattan wine store. I’ve consistently been nicely treated there which may be why this occurrence annoyed–and disappointed–me.

Here’s what happened.

The scene: An employee is posted at the exit. His/her job is to take from customers the empty little red TJ marketing carts.

Last Saturday the middle aged woman at this post left it and raced, all smiles and hearty greeting, past several cash registers to the farthest cashier from the door to relieve a handsome white haired man of his store cart. He was also encumbered with a personal shopping cart. I was at the register nearest her and had the same two carts to juggle. She didn’t budge to take mine from me and she hissed, “thank you misssss,” when I handed it to her. [I haven’t been called miss for decades and haven’t heard anyone use the term either.]

After a dozen years at an all-girls school and at least the same number at a woman’s industry association I have no rose colored glasses where women treating women respectfully or helpfully is concerned: Some do; many don’t. In my experience the sisterhood word is a figment of a creative or wishful marketing person’s imagination.

That said, I’ve always been blessed with a wonderful number of supportive, dear, beautiful women friends–men friends too. I enjoyed mentoring both men and women and representing men and women in business.

Have you noticed when women end up on the cutting room floor in retail or restaurant situations that another woman is wielding the scissors or is my experience/observation a one-off? When organizations of women refer to “sisterhood,” or sisterly relationships among their constituents, is there something to it or is it fiction?

Service of What’s Going On? We Were Nice to One Another for a While

Monday, July 19th, 2021

Image by Methawee Krasaeden from Pixabay

Certain friends would reprimand me when I complained about service. They’d say, “The person is paid so little. What can you expect?” That was never a viable excuse for me. I don’t think that clients or customers should be penalized for that reason.

Today there’s a new excuse for bad behavior or flaunting the rules. Some say “Oh, but the poor things have been cooped up so long because of the pandemic.” So? I should be put in danger or yelled at because somebody is sick of social distancing or wearing a mask and is asked to do so? I feel no pity. And there’s another difference: The perpetrators of grouch and grump are customers.

We are so spoiled. If this was a traditional war would these people go for a stroll during bombing while whining that they’d had enough of being stuck in a basement or subway platform? This is a kind of war–against a silent enemy we can’t see.

We’ve recently seen fisticuffs over mask-wearing on national news between passengers on planes.

Apt Cape Cod friend’s comment on the restaurant’s Facebook page: “Please let your staff know that there are more nice people in the world than not-so-nice ones! Jocelyn”

Neil Vigdor wrote about “The owners of Apt Cape Cod, a farm-to-table restaurant in Brewster, Mass., [that] drew a line in the sand against customers’ rude behavior since being allowed to fully reopen.” In his New York Times article he reported “The verbal abuse from rude customers got so bad, the owners of one farm-to-table restaurant on Cape Cod said that some of their employees cried.” All one waitress had done was to tell a customer that the restaurant wasn’t yet open so she couldn’t submit his takeout order. He blew his top.

Vigdor wrote: “So Ms. Felt Castellano and her spouse, Regina Felt Castellano, who is also the head chef and co-owner, announced on Facebook that the restaurant would close for part of that same day to treat the restaurant’s employees to a ‘day of kindness.'”

The attitude is spreading like a rash. Here’s an example of what another industry is faced with. An excerpt of a comment by Liese Swann on Apt Cape Cod’s Facebook page follows: “My spouse works in home improvement retail, part of management. The stories he comes home with now are simply unreal. He hung up the phone on one abusive customer, and his staff looked at him wide-eyed and said “We can do that?” They were mightily cheered when he said yes. Some of these customers threaten to call the state AG’s office because the manufacturer can’t supply their order fast enough! As soon as that phrase comes out of their mouths, management has no choice but to cut off the conversation and refuse their calls…..they cannot comprehend that their kitchen cabinets or new washer and dryer set simply can’t be conjured up out of thin air. And they throw temper tantrums at people who have no control over manufacturing and shipping. It’s completely unacceptable.”

Nasty bares its ugly teeth where I live too.  I was sad to learn that tenants in my apartment building are acting badly. We had been so good for so long!

We have received almost daily notices from building management requesting that we please continue to wear masks in public spaces because of the rampant Delta Covid-19 variant that, wrote the manager, is up 23 percent in our neighborhood. Another reason he gave: so many tenants travel internationally. [He didn’t mention our proximity to a major NYC hospital and its many specialty satellites.] In one reminder the manager wrote: “Some residents have cursed at others for asking them to comply. This behavior is unacceptable. We all want to feel safe.”

Are people continuing to keep their cool where your life takes you or have you begun to see fraying at the seams of good behavior? Do you excuse the short-tempered people because Covid 19 has confined them and they are fed up? What else do you think is going on?

Image by klimkin from Pixabay

Service of Worker Shortage

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

Have you been impacted by worker shortage? The answer would be “yes” if you were trying to renew your passport. Debra Kamin reported in The New York Times that it could take 18 weeks to renew by mail vs. six to eight before the pandemic. Appointments at one of the 26 official passport centers around the country–if you hope to fast track a renewal–are almost as hard to come by as winning lottery tickets.

A shortage of Transportation Security Agency (TSA) workers has created inordinately long Airport lines.

Photo: Hudson Garden Grill

Yet service was perfect at the Hudson Garden Grill located in the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx last Sunday. One of my friends asked the waiter if they were serving monkey bread and he explained that the restaurant is short-staffed and not fully back to where it was before the pandemic, so not yet, but soon. [I’d never eaten, seen or heard of this bread. Next time.]

I was happy to find an item that was out of stock at the three CVS stores within walking distance of my apartment when I happened to be on East 72nd Street. The store was clearly short staffed as it took too many minutes to get someone to free the item from behind locked doors. And then there was trouble with an express checkout machine and only one cashier. A valiant very young man was trying to answer questions, assist at checkout and open locked items.

CVS usually sends a “how did we do?” query after I buy something and I gave my experience an 8–because I was so happy to see the hard-to-find item. There’s space to explain your score. I was blown away when the store manager wrote the day after my response. Here’s an excerpt of his email: “As the Store Manager, I deeply regret that we were not able to meet your expectations regarding the items you wanted being locked up and your checkout experience.

“Good news or bad, feedback from our customers helps us understand the experience for all, and when necessary, make improvements to meet your expectations. We will continue to get better at unlocking items. I truly apologize for the inconvenience. In terms of your checkout, we do have some new hires that we are training and it takes some time to get them up to speed. They will get better as well. I hope next time your experience is a 10!

“I would like to personally invite you to let me know how we are doing. Please respond directly to this email with the best date, time, and phone number to reach you.”

Now that’s customer service!

Has the worker shortage affected you? Have the businesses and services you frequent been able to work around it?

Service of Patience Rewarded

Thursday, April 29th, 2021

Photo: wayneelsey.com

My husband used to tell me to slow down. I’ve only now begun to heed his advice on occasion. It paid off this time.

I scratched my eyeglasses badly, right in the middle of the lens. Reading through the smudge was driving me nuts. I finally reached out, on the Internet, to the company that had my recent prescription to order another pair and immediately heard back. I sent the invoice number, [proud that I knew just where to find it from a while ago], and subsequently heard nothing. I figured they couldn’t do it.

I described my experience in a follow-up customer service survey and forgot about it. Maybe I was getting used to reading through the distortion. Truth is, I dreaded having to go to an eyeglass store in person. I’m still Covid-cautious.

On Sunday I received an email from Jessica who said she was the supervisor on the Customer Experience team. She wrote: “I feel awful that your experience wasn’t up to snuff—that’s not the kind of Warby Parker customer experience we pride ourselves on, and I see where we fell short in our previous email thread about re-ordering some reading glasses. If you’re still interested, I’d love to offer my personal assistance with ordering a new pair of Yardley in Blue Marbled Tortoise with your reading prescription.​”

We spoke the next day and I asked if I’d be paying the same as for the first pair. She said that because I’d had to wait too long to reorder she’d given me a $30 discount. Nice surprise!

Are you usually impatient? Have you found that patience, especially during the pandemic, can have its rewards? When you order from a vendor do you always demand to get service yesterday even if you don’t need it that fast? Have we changed the kind of oil to apply to the squeaky wheel?

Photo: inc.com

Service of Assuming: Upgrades that Benefit the Vendor

Monday, January 11th, 2021

Photo: quora.com

I’ve written before about upgrades that aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be and more often than not, are of little if any benefit to the consumer.

The evening before my apartment building was to replace washers and dryers we received a notice. The dedicated plastic credit cards that start the machines were to be replaced by new ones along with a fancier digital gadget to activate them. The old cards would no longer work and after the installation there would be no way to read the old cards to see what money remained. [We are usually given at least a week’s notice if the water will be turned off of elevators repaired. This last minute notice is unusual.]

“Let the company know how much is left on your card,” the instructions stated, and there would be two ways to be reimbursed: mail the old card to the company along with the amount or transfer the money to the new one via a series of steps on the new digital gadget in the laundry room. [A tenant who’d figured out the latter step saved me time by doing it for me. Grateful, I paid for a load of her laundry. For this to happen, however, the tenant had to first notify the washing machine company with the amount on the old card.]

Armed with a new card with money on it I asked “what happens if the Internet connection is down when I need to refill the card?” I might need to take a night course at MIT or drag my laundry back upstairs and wait until it is restored to proceed.

My guess is that many tenants have no idea how much was left on their old cards–nice for the washing machine company as ours is a big building.

More important, the instructions encouraged tenants to download an app on their smart phones to use the machines in future. This presumes that every tenant owns a smartphone and that they want to download another app, creating one more potential leak for hackers to play “suck my money.”

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Turns out that for now at least you can use the card to work a machine.

I wrote at least based the model of the future of MetroCards used to pay carfare on NYC subways: the cards have a short life. In two years we will only enter the system by digital pay via a smartphone.

Take a look at the locations in Manhattan that are scheduled to dole out Covid-19 vaccines. [I trust the list will grow in time.] All require appointments, some made by telephone; others online. What if a citizen has no access to the Internet?

Do tenants who chose the app option need to leave their phones with a housekeeper or guest who want to do a laundry so they have the indicia to flash at and start the machines?

Should businesses and organizations assume that all potential customers are up to speed technologically?  Is the savings so great that losing a few customers because they’re not doesn’t matter? Have you gone head to head with technology?

Photo: bridgeheadsoftware.com

Service of Inspiration: It’s All About Attitude

Monday, January 4th, 2021

Photo: thedancebarn.co.uk

Service is the root of my posts and the inspiration of my 12 year old blog. Memory of exceptionally bad service I received since I was a teen remain and fascinate me which is why I chose the topic. [I even remember a bus driver who yelled at my mother when I was young.]

I’ve previously written about the ruthlessly nasty man behind the engagement ring counter at Cartier. My fiancée and I were in our early 20s. His nasty attitude made its mark. Fully aware that this was only one person, I have nevertheless avoided the brand ever since.

I had a flashback to that exchange when I entered the local liquor store I’d frequented since the pandemic started after a lovely New Years Day walk with a friend. I didn’t recognize the two behind the counter in the otherwise empty store. They were chatting in French and didn’t greet me. I had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket. I asked them “Can you please recommend a good red wine in the $10 range?”

One of them answered “No,” and turned back to his conversation. The single word felt like a slap.

Photo: blog.fivestars.com

I’ve never worked in retail sales but given a live customer and the fact there were no other customers waiting I’d have shown her a red costing $15 if necessary saying “You should give this one a try even though it’s a bit more.”

I wished I’d not let my French rot over years of neglect or I’d have mouthed a few choice words. Why were they working in a store with specially priced wines prominently displayed by price from $5.99 to $15?

I never gave Cartier another chance though I plan to return to the wine store to learn if the men are new owners or employees. If the latter, I will share my experience. If the former, I will find another store.

My wine store of choice is Trader Joe’s on 14th Street. Trader Joe’s hasn’t delivered in a few years and is not convenient–I avoid public transportation for frivolous reasons these days. Wine snobs: sneer all you like but I have been happier with wines I’ve bought there starting at $6 than I have some at $16 from the local store.

Have you noticed that insulting service is infrequent these days and therefore more startling? Do you have recent superbly good or bad service experiences to share?

Photo: locations.traderjoes.com

 

 

Service of Who Cares About the Customer?

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

Photo: worldnationaldays.com

What happened to “the customer is always right?” Here are three examples that illustrate the opposite. One is of a chronic nature; the other two are impacted by or are a result of the pandemic. There are simple solutions to all three.

Rethinking Hospital Tradition

Photo: mddionline.com

There may be a million good reasons for it but patients suffer because of a tradition by hospitals, in these parts, to notify a patient the day before an operation–sometimes late in the day–about the timing of the procedure and when to show up. Some patients need to arrange for a friend or relative to pick them up if they are an outpatient. Not knowing the time until the last minute ties up the friend’s schedule and adds needless anxiety for the patient.

There must be a way to program operations a few days ahead of time.

Unemployment

I’ve quoted this former boss before. He’d say, “How come you don’t have time to do it right the first time but you have time to do it again?”

Photo: pdxmonthly.com

A friend has spent hours getting through to unemployment on the phone, waiting on hold for as long as 90 minutes once she succeeds only to have the employee say they’ve solved the problem when they haven’t. This has gone on week after week and the latest glitch is always something simple to fix such as checking a box. The result: Still no money.

With the crush of people needing help due to the furloughs and layoffs resulting from the pandemic, there must be a way to simplify the procedure and to decrease the number of errors that add to the lineup of phone calls.

Weighty Decision

Photo: weightwatchers.com

A friend continues to pay full fee to Weight Watchers for the virtual meeting she now attends with a group in which she’s participated for eight + years. The studios are closed due to the pandemic. She is comfortable with the participants/support group she knows and the time for the weekly Zoom appointment fits her schedule.

The company notified the team leader it was cancelling the meeting at her time because they considered 15 to 20 participants too few and offered her other inconvenient times–with strangers. She says she will miss the collegiality of the group–essential for a program like this.

You would think that a big business could operate with a bit more heart during the pandemic, especially since clients are paying full freight while not attending in person meetings.

Why must patients be notified of the time of their operations at the last minute? How come the directors of unemployment haven’t simplified the application process to cut down mistakes relieving the clog in the system? Should a corporation like Weight Watchers, with a mission that involves support, be flexible in its bean counting during an especially stressful time for its clients?

Photo: wisegeek.com

Service of Surprises that Cost Little and Make a Day

Monday, October 26th, 2020

Photo: twitter.com

A small gesture or effort, an unexpected tweak, can make a person’s day. I’ve written about these often. It’s fun to be on either side–recipient or donor.

In Vino Veritas

Since March I’ve bought wine at a local store rather than at the discounted Trader Joe’s that’s 25 blocks away. Each time I visit there are different clerks, all nice, mostly men. I buy inexpensive wine–two bottles at a time–as the store is my last stop on my way home. I’m already loaded up with groceries and still have four blocks to go.

On my last visit Sussex Wine [photo above] was empty and the clerk and I chatted. She could tell that this was not my first visit. She asked me if I was in their system: by sharing my phone number and name I’d be registered in their awards plan. After 300 points a customer gets a $10 discount. They’d never call me, she promised. The men hadn’t told me of this benefit before. I “enrolled.” As I left she told me she’d started me off with 200 points. Wow!

Milking It

There wasn’t a quart of fat free or 1 percent milk in Gristedes, the local grocery store. I walked to the front–milk seems to be as far from the door as possible in every store–and found a clerk sitting on a box restocking the lowest shelf. I asked if they expected a delivery later in the day. He jumped up, said he thought the truck had just arrived, dashed outside and came back with a quart of skim. Golden service! As I left I saw that they hadn’t yet brought out a hand truck to unload the order.

When Everything Goes Wrong

There were two clerks at CVS drugstore both of whom were having time-consuming problems checking out their customers. The manager came, spoke with each and just before he opened a third cash register to alleviate the growing checkout line a floor clerk said she also needed him.

He started to enter my order at the third register–we too ran into a hitch–when he left to again help the two cashiers whose customers had already been there for far too long. I didn’t see him again for quite a while. When he came back to me he apologized profusely and often and looked gloomy. He expected to hear me rant about the delay.

I smiled, said I saw that he was stretched beyond reason and not to worry. His relief and gratitude was palpable. It was a joy to see his mood change to cheerful. As he handed me my receipt he was overjoyed to tell me that I had a $6.00 rewards coupon.

Have you received a happy surprise or been able to please someone unexpectedly, at little cost? Does the stress over the pandemic and/or the election have something to do with some people-helping-people in important small ways?

Photo: myanxiousworld.com

Service of Fixing a Glitch: Here’s to the USPS in Manhattan!

Monday, October 19th, 2020

Photo: usps.com

I moved my office home in June. I let the United States Postal Service [USPS] know the new address and promptly received a confirmation. I sent myself a letter to check that all was well and forgot about it.

I suddenly realized that I’d  never received that letter.

So I sent myself another letter at my former office with my home return address. I got it back only because it was sent to my return address. The yellow self-stick post office label said “Return to Sender Attempted–Not Known Unable to Forward.” The sticker made no sense but worse, it meant that the USPS wasn’t forwarding my first class mail.

Photo: hprgraphics.net

I brought that envelope and USPS change of address confirmation to the Grand Central post office. A customer service clerk told me that my former office address was a “Drop House,” which, she explained, means that the USPS drops off the mail at the building and that building distributes the mail.

Turns out that this wasn’t quite accurate. Clarification in a moment.

I went to the office building immediately and the doorman said that nobody  distributes mail for the USPS.

So I wrote to the District Manager, Postmaster New York District who forwarded my dilemma to a super problem solver, Michelle Linton in the district consumer affairs department. She called me, explained what the “drop house” concept meant in my case and sent a test letter which I’ve yet to receive. The “drop house” referred to our office, the section of the 11th floor where seven businesses shared space. The postal delivery staff dropped off one package of mail to 11-South and one of us distributed the mail. None of us are there anymore; the office is closed.

Linton and I stayed in touch. She sent  a second letter, this time with a tracking number, which she again called me to share.

Saturday I received the letter I’d sent myself on October 8th and was thrilled. Linton had unclogged the glitch in the system. The address on the yellow forwarding sticker was correct. [I’d put a friend’s return address on the letter this time.]

I haven’t yet received Linton’s first letter or the one with the tracking number, which is troublesome [what else might I be missing?], but I have every confidence that if I never get it she will iron things out.

Can you share examples of other customer service or consumer affairs staffers who are dedicated to solving glitches in their systems and have helped you out?

Photo: medium.com

 

Service of an After Pandemic To Do List–or Not

Monday, August 17th, 2020

Photo: makeuseof.com

There are a few things I’ve put on a list to address when the pandemic cools and companies reestablish their sea legs.

  • One large corporation doesn’t recognize either my phone or account numbers so I cannot access my online account. I finally got customer service to mail a hard copy of my monthly bill. It worked once. Here’s hoping for subsequent ones.
  • Customer service at another company that’s supposed to send money can’t find me in their system so I can’t set up direct deposit. Some computer knows I exist as I get a mailed check. Don’t ask.

Photo: atlantic.net

Meanwhile, there are other companies that are buttoned up in spite of the pandemic. I use Saashost for a variety of email functions. The company was changing platforms which meant that all my devices/computers that receive email–laptop, phone, iPad and desktop–needed to make changes to accommodate the upgrade.

It’s a pandemic for me too and the timing was the worst because my IT consultant had other issues to settle and could only help so much. Life goes on.

The upgrade word always gives me the shivers. In my experience every “upgrade” makes it longer and harder for me to do what I did before, usually involving many more steps.

My IT consultant went through the first round so my laptop and phone could communicate to the new platform under the guidance of the indomitable Shaun at Saashost.

The rest was up to me. I was petrified. I didn’t need to be.

Shaun and Bradley held my hand virtually. They didn’t utter a single techie word or slap their heads in exasperation when the desktop–the mother of challenges because it’s a granny–didn’t perform or because attempted fixes took so long to download. They had me laughing as we delved into the scary depths of the ancient desktop.

Eventually Shaun had to rescue granny with some behind-the-scenes techie pyrotechnics by entering the computer remotely. He fixed it! Granny gets emails. Hooray!

Do you have a list of follow-ups you’ll be making once corporations are comfortable with the new normal? Have expert, patient, kind tech support staff worked you through treacherous steps in an unfamiliar world of behind-the-scenes letters, numbers, links and downloads?

Photo: steemit.com

 

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