Archive for the ‘Customer Service’ Category

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

 

Service of Little Things Mean A Lot II

Thursday, July 30th, 2020

Photo: psychologytoday.com

I wrote the first post with this title three + months ago. It’s time for a reprise. The first post was about friends who reach out. This one is about strangers who warmed my heart.

How Cool is That?

The air conditioning units in my apartment all fizzled on a toasty day. I followed up a few times–the units belong to the landlord–and when the temperature had climbed upwards of 86° with four more hours until sunset–I get afternoon sun–I visited the lobby again explaining that I was beginning to feel woozy. The morning year-round doorman had been passive and useless. The manger was on vacation.

Climbing up to 86 degrees+

Doorman Joshua, a very young man and summer temp jumped into action and within an hour a porter/handyman was on the job. As I waited for him to return with new units the intercom rang. It was Joshua–we’d met only that afternoon–asking if I was OK. The porter told me Joshua had also called him again to confirm that he was on it. Too bad for us this is his summer job. I suspect he’s a student and given his common sense and empathetic streak predict great things for his future.

Beautiful Cashier

I visited CVS drug store on Third Avenue and 42nd Street early on a recent Sunday morning. The cashiers consistently help me make the most of my coupons. As I left that day–I was dressed in pandemic fashion on the cusp of sloppy–the young woman, who was barely out of her teens, called out: “Stay as beautiful as you are.” She could see my wave but not the smile under my mask.

Moving Along

I called the Metropolitan Transit Authority [MTA] about returning a discount MetroCard sent my husband. When I explained the reason the clerk, hearing he’d died, was compassionate and so heartfelt in her condolences I could hardly catch my breath.

Read On

I treated myself to an iPad so I could download books. I got tangled in the process of ordering a book after I’d downloaded an e-card from the New York Public Library so I sent a query to the help desk. After more fiddling I figured it out. A few days later I heard from Elizabeth at AskNYPL and in another email I explained that I was set and apologized for bothering her unnecessarily.

She wrote: “You are not bothering us. We’re here to answer questions, so if you run into any more e-book trouble, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Chat and phone are best for quick answers.” I responded again as did she: “So glad you were finally able to get a book! I loved A Gentleman in Moscow. Hope you enjoy it….Take care and happy reading!”

You don’t feel alone when dealing with people like these. Kindhearted, lovely strangers who take extra steps beyond their job descriptions are welcome anytime but especially these days. I suspect they enjoy their jobs more as well. Many of them suffer from pandemic fallout yet they still go the extra mile. Do you have similar instances to share?

Photo: nypl.org1

Service of Uneven Performances During a Pandemic

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

Photo: facebook.com

When a company or organization works well these days it does so splendidly and when it doesn’t……I’ve encountered both.

Kudos to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. In spite of the pandemic, its staff sent me a receipt in record time acknowledging they’d destroyed the license plates we’d shipped to them. Shortly thereafter I received a refund check for what they owed me because there was still time on my registration.

It took a shockingly few minutes to cancel my auto insurance. When I called USAA the customer service person trusted the date on my motor vehicles receipt and voila! Done.

Photo: thecity.nyc

On the other hand, the New York State Board of Elections so far gets an F. I requested a write-in ballot well over a month ago and since have read and heard countless suggestions from the NYC Mayor and others urging folks to do the same. The deadline to vote in the June 23 primary is approaching and no ballot as of yesterday. I reported this to my councilman’s office. The staffer who took the message said that someone in the office was looking into this as plenty of others are in the same boat.

Photo: Techcrunch.com

Have you tried to call Verizon? Ha! What a rigamarole to report a change of address! I was refused access to my online account; live chat doesn’t handle this task and sent me back to the site I couldn’t enter. There is no place on the bill to  make the address adjustment. I pleaded with Mr. or Ms. Live Chat for a phone number which I got. I called,  clicking on “technical difficulties” to get a person who heard my distress and transferred me to a woman in the finance department. Jackpot. Let’s hope I get the next bill at the right address. Time wasted: 3/4 of a frustrating anxiety-provoking  hour.

I filled out the online United States Postal Service change of address form and when done was asked for my credit card number. I thought “I must be in a scam lookalike website,” and clicked off. I then asked for the old fashioned paper form at the post office and mentioned the credit card request that had alarmed me. The postal clerk told me that I was on the right site and that online address changes cost $1. I’d be happy to donate $1 but the reason for the charge and credit card request should have been made clear. I’ve been burned before: I thought I was on a site that I had accessed. It was an almost-the-same address. The mistake scrambled my computer requiring an expert to salvage it.

One friend still waits for her stimulus check when everyone else seems to have received theirs; another in an adjacent state hasn’t seen a cent of unemployment money in six weeks. She called the office 70 times one day and couldn’t get through.

Please share experiences that you have faced trying to get things done during the pandemic– more remarkable than exasperating I trust.

Photo: faq.usps.com

 

Service of Ordering Online During a Pandemic

Monday, May 18th, 2020

Photo: Greymount Paper & Press

Chances are you may have ordered something online during the pandemic even if it’s not something you normally do.

Small Business

Photo: Greymount Paper & Press

I wanted a special card to send a college grad and liked one I saw on a Greymount Paper & Press sponsored Facebook ad [photo above]. The well-designed website was promising.

I prefer feeling the paper and ensuring that the printing is crisp, but these days that isn’t in the, uh, cards. I took advantage of a promotion and bought four. They arrived promptly from the artist/owner of the press, Carlene Gleman, along with a professional invoice with a cheery handwritten note on it and two bonus surprise cards.

Photo: Greymount Paper & Press

I dashed off an email to thank Carlene and tell her how much I liked the cards. She responded: “It’s always lovely to meet a fellow quality-aholic. Thank you for your kind words! Customers like you are one of the reasons I get out of bed each morning with a smile. That, and my sweet little family who are currently trapped in the house with me for Week #4,900! Ha. From one upstate New Yorker to a downstate New Yorker, stay safe and be well :-)”

I forwarded this note to a friend who also loves–and sends–the best cards and she said she ordered some from Greymount too. I gave Carlene a heads up, said that my friend had recently been furloughed and she wrote “Thanks for letting me know about ___, I am going to sneak a few extra goodies into her package as a cheer-up.”

Big Business

In contrast, a friend’s experience ordering flowers from 1-800-Flowers on May 4th for delivery Mother’s Day weekend was inexcusable. Not once did the company update her. She had to waste her time tracking them down in countless follow-ups.

The arrangement was meant for her best friend and her friend’s mother, who is deathly ill. Hers was a hard deadline, possibly more imminent than Mother’s Day, which she made clear each time she called customer service as each subsequent promised delivery day came and went. The upshot: In spite of her diligent surveillance the flowers never arrived, the company returned her money and she ordered a bouquet from a local florist. During her last conversation a 1-800-Flowers customer service supervisor told her the delay was because of Covid-19. If a company has no mechanism to update customers and if they cannot fulfill an order they should not accept one.

These examples of a generous small business that nurtures customers and an overwhelmed big business is statistically insignificant. But I wonder if such differences in customer service might augur the future of success of the retail landscape during the pandemic–what do you think?

1-800-Flowers

Service of Who’s the Boss II? Social Security, A Bank & A Museum

Monday, July 1st, 2019

Photo: db4beginners.com

The answer to “who’s the boss?” often muttered as a rhetorical question, isn’t always negative, though in two of the three following examples it is. Sometimes a decision-maker deserves praise and other times, he/she doesn’t seem to be watching the ball. In either case, you really may want to know.

I’ll start with a happy surprise.

Feeling Secure

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

I’ve recently needed to make countless calls to ask for documents and information. I lucked into Mr. Gopaul who picked up the phone at the West 48th Street NYC Social Security office. He didn’t pass me on to someone else as seems to happen increasingly these days, but quickly answered my questions, some relating to recent correspondence. I asked for his name so I could write a letter to recognize his exemplary service. His voice, at first impatient so as to get on to the next call, softened and he ended our conversation saying, “bless you.”

Who’s the boss? I took to Google.  My letter to the regional Social Security director went out that day.

One + Zero=Five

Photo: credit.com

In the private sector, I had a different experience. A bank handling my husband’s pension—Bank A–needed to take back a direct deposit payment I wasn’t entitled to.  My retail bank—Bank B–said it happens all the time and would handle the request from Bank A.

But Bank A didn’t take that one simple step. Instead, it sent me three documents, each one with different information and dollar amounts about upcoming payments. Two customer service people couldn’t figure it out any more than I could. To pay itself back Bank A has instead given itself five steps–that many more times to mess up—instead of one. I’m neither a banker nor a numbers person but this doesn’t compute. Who’s the boss?

Water, Water Everywhere….

I received a sell piece from a major museum for a five day trip to the Berkshires accompanied by the institution’s curator of American paintings and sculpture. I know this area well and have been to most if not all of its museums—there aren’t many–but was tempted by an excursion not too far from NYC with a knowledgeable curator. The fee got my attention–$5,999 per person double rate or almost $12,000 for two—but the charge is not why I ask “who’s the boss?” The “Rate Includes” section on the sell piece was the reason. You get “bottled water and coffee/tea with all meals.” For $12,000, I wouldn’t call this out any more than I would put on a dress’s price tag “$175 includes thread and zipper.” The program director should have deleted this and created some toothsome or valuable perks for the sell piece. [I also noted that not included are “meals not specified.” Let’s hope participants get all meals.]

Do you sometimes wonder who’s in charge and if the person is focusing on the work? Do you take time to find out who’s the boss to credit people who have done a superlative job as well as to gripe about those who don’t?

Photo: twitter.com

Service of Untrained Staff and Insufficient Inventory Messing Up Food Orders

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

Photo: medium.com

When you order food and don’t get what you want it can be hard to tell if it’s due to a lack of staff training or insufficient inventory. This is nothing new even though the millions who order all sorts of food online these days may think it is.

I ran into untrained staff causing stress when buying a bunch of sandwiches for office colleagues at a then novel Au Bon Pain years ago. It was so bad I eventually no longer asked “Can I get someone anything at Au Bon Pain?” when leaving the office to pick up lunch for myself. The takeout offered a choice of bread, meat and cheese for freshly made sandwiches. Inevitably I’d return with ham and brie on a roll when my colleague wanted ham and Swiss on a baguette as one example. Of some five orders three would be wrong. Drove me nuts. It happened because the staff didn’t know the difference between cheeses and breads and clearly the choices weren’t well marked and/or the staff wasn’t trained to ID the options.

Heather Haddon’s Wall Street Journal article rang bells. “Amazon to Whole Foods Online Delivery Customers: We’re Out of Celery, How’s Kale? Companies offering online grocery ordering and delivery struggle with services’ logistics” described customer experience with the online grocery and delivery system for select Amazon Prime members.

Photo: LLamasoft.com

She wrote about what happened to Kelly Hills. The Massachusetts-based bioethicist  “ordered a sourdough loaf from Whole Foods recently but was offered a jalapeño cheese bread instead. Her so-called ‘shopper’—either a contract worker employed by Amazon or a Whole Foods staff member tasked with compiling delivery orders—had opted to put decaf coffee in her bag instead of whole roasted coffee beans, celery instead of celery root and a single seltzer flavor rather than a variety. ‘The substitutions are downright bizarre. It’s frustrating,'” Think of all the time wasted to return this stuff or the money lost to accept what you won’t use.

Haddon added that problems “are often amplified because daily operations at the two companies are still largely separate. Whole Foods employees said Amazon workers routinely ask for help finding items on shelves or elsewhere, distracting them from their own duties. Technology that tracks Whole Foods’s inventory is old, and officials have discussed updating it for years.”

Have you been impacted by poorly trained staff, insufficient inventory or other issues when buying food–or anything else–either in person or online? Why do you think the glitches happen? Do you usually accept the mistakes or do you take time to return or report them?

Photo en.wikipedia.com

Service by an Entertainment Company that was the Opposite of Entertaining

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

Photo: supportbee.com

It’s a shame when a company produces a good product and fails so miserably in the customer service department. Our experience with DirectTV is a perfect example. We had fine TV reception for years in the boonies in upstate NY when little else electronically-related worked. When we sold our house and discontinued the service, all hell broke loose. In a nutshell, the staff was poorly trained and had access to zero customer information.

A customer service rep who took the stop-order told my husband to toss the receiver as it was too old to keep. However, he said, “hold on to the plastic card in the receiver.” He’d send a package to our city address, he said, with an envelope in which to mail back the card.

Photo: newsroom.edison.com

Having not received the package, I called and spent 20++ minutes to learn that 1) the package was sent to the wrong address 2) they couldn’t correct the address in the system and 3) they couldn’t send me a new package.

After too many minutes of nothing and being put on hold, customer service person No. 1 told me that in order to make an address change I’d have to speak with three people. As the first two conversations were useless, and after the second one promised to email a document to me to confirm our account was closed, I hung up. Further, he told me to toss the plastic card: Nobody wanted it. [I still have it.]

I never got an email.

I’m nuts about protecting my credit and wanted proof that the chapter was closed. I also wanted to cauterize future bills. As I couldn’t find a place on the website to send an email, nor could I quickly ID appropriate names in a hasty Google search, I wrote Michael White CEO. I wanted a document that said we were officially cancelled.

This week we received a bill for TV service and I called DirectTV to learn what period the bill covered. [The bill said January 15 to January 16 which was silly as we no longer owned the house and $120-something was a bit much for a day.] I spoke with two people, neither of whom could tell me. We paid the bill anyway marking the check FINAL PAYMENT. I think we owed this money and that original bill was lost in the move shuffle.

So yesterday I got an email—and my husband said several phone calls at home—from a “Sr. Manager, AT&T Office of the President.” [AT&T owns DirectTV.] Long story short, there is nothing he can do about the tossed receiver that he said we leased and should have returned. So why wasn’t this noted on our record so that the first person we spoke to about cancelling the service could advise us properly?

The Sr. Manger gave me chapter and verse about the recent bill’s breakdown. How come nobody else could?

He hoped I wouldn’t get a bill for the receiver in future and was sorry that he couldn’t do anything about that.

I replied: “We were prepared to bring the box back to the city to ship it to you and did not because of the faulty information given us. I trust that you will figure out what to do so that we never again are billed for anything from DirectTV. The TV service we had was excellent but your customer service is unacceptable.”

Today I sent him an image of both sides of our DirectTV card [Photo of one side, above left]. I think it’s amazing after a major move that we still have it!

In this digital age, how can so many disconnects happen and so many untrained customer service people be let loose on the public by a major corporation? Everything crucial about an account should be on each screen for all to access. Have you had trouble discontinuing a service and/or been consistently ill advised by customer service?

Photo: vanwiefinancial.com

Service of a Simple Transaction Done Well: Kudos LAZ Parking

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

Photo: worldartsme.com

One smart, quick, knowledgeable, engaged person can make a huge difference when there are potential stumbling blocks in a transaction designed to be seamless.

We received a letter from LAZ Parking, the company that runs parking lots and grants permits at Metro-North railroad stations. We had parked in the LAZ lot in Dover Plains for 15+ years and sent a check to renew our yearly permit before the other one expired. In return, LAZ provided proof of payment to display in the car window. The system worked well.

But they changed it. [I could write many posts about so-called upgrades that turn out to be downgrades for me.]

LAZ asked us to sign up online, to download proof of car registration and supply other information. In addition to online registration systems that in my experience are often fraught with peril and traps leading to potential error, our situation had a few complications:

  • My husband had held on to the letter for at least 10 days which was 9½ days too many. Each station has a limited number of monthly parking slots and they are promptly scooped up.
  • We needed to change the account from my husband’s name to mine to match our new car registration.
  • We wanted to pay by check, not by credit card, the way the system is set up.

We were saved by Kathleen Dawson, LAZ Administration Assistant Supervisor, who shepherded our order through all the twists and turns. She was in one office and our online application was used by another. She cleared up the system’s initial confusion over the name change which caused us at first to be refused a permit, responded to all my concerns, expertly advising me and warned those at the other LAZ office about our quirky situation. What might have been a nightmare that ended up with the loss of our parking permit turned out just fine. We are grateful to Ms. Dawson and to those at the second office who expedited and approved our request the day they received our check.

Have you been as lucky as we were to have someone like Ms. Dawson guide you and lubricate a transaction that had many opportunities to become grounded? Do most companies nurture, respect and reward five star customer service support staff such as Ms. Dawson?

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