Archive for the ‘Customer Service’ Category

Service of What a Difference One Person Can Make

Thursday, September 29th, 2022

If you’ve become dependent on your smartphone, as I am, should it crash, you panic.

I made the wrong decision when this happened to me, bought a new phone from untrained, irresponsible employees at a reputable company–Verizon Wireless–and was saved by a young man at Apple. He stepped out of the routine–he could have palmed me off to someone else, making me wait, but he sensed my distress and sprang into action.

As Paul Harvey used to say, and now the rest of the story.

AJ Rosario at the Grand Central Terminal Apple store rescued me last week. I thought that Verizon Wireless had sold me a damaged iPhone 13. He assessed my mood and quickly put an end to the drama.

Verizon staff did not know how to download my apps and programs from the cloud, which was clear after two days, and its staff washed its hands of the lifeless device they had sold me by ignoring me. Fortunately, the Apple store is in the same building. Once I realized I was persona non grata, simply warming a seat, I dashed to the Apple store.

AJ was at the top of the stairs crowded with people, the first employee I saw. He was as kind, understanding and reassuring as he was expert. He whisked me to a table and rolled up his sleeves. Quickly my thousands of contacts appeared in my address book as did my emails and texts and eventually the apps–and my sanity returned too. The new phone came to life in his hands.

As AJ worked on my iPhone I texted a friend from my iPad. I told her that a guardian angel at Apple was helping me. I told AJ what I’d just written. He whispered that he’s known by AJ at work but his name is Angel–“and don’t tell anyone.”

Do you share my anxiety when purchasing new electronic devices because like me you’re at the mercy of people who know their way around them–or maybe they don’t? Have you had exceptional service–good and bad–of late?


Image by Stefan Kuhn from Pixabay

Service of Who Cares II

Monday, September 12th, 2022

I’m not the only one who has noticed a surge of overt indifference by retail employees lately and it’s not been exclusively in NYC where I start.

At a Manhattan branch of T.J.Maxx I heard a lively conversation of what turned out to be three sales associates hovering in housewares. I interrupted them to learn whether the store carried an item I needed. I was surprised they were so bold to turn the sales floor into a catch-up-around-a-water-cooler-like scene for such a long time.

At Home Depot, also in Manhattan, where I’ve always been treated courteously by sales associates, a guard on street level, seated in a wheelchair meant for customers, was slumped over his phone oblivious to his surroundings. My grocery cart accidentally slammed to the cement floor, the handle making an alarming clatter, and he neither budged nor looked up.


Image by Sabine van Erp from Pixabay

The same week I heard from EAM who shared examples of apathy towards customers during a trip to California. She visited Gumps, a favorite haunt of her parents. It was 4:40 pm, she wrote, and the store closed at 5 pm. She was looking at jewelry and “they started pulling it from the cases, one man throwing velvet covers over some, putting the jewelry onto trays as well.”  While this was going on, one salesman was attentive and answered her questions. She continued: “Overall, I was appalled by this experience–that a high-end store would treat people so rudely. One saleswoman had made an assessment, based on my appearance, that I wasn’t a serious customer. In fact, my parents, over the years, had made some significant purchases.” 

That same week EAM reported on a booth selling art glass vases in the $200+ range at a craft show. “To ask a question my sister literally had to interrupt the four salespeople in the booth huddled in conversation. They seemed clueless about their dismissive sales approach. She returned to check out the vases before purchasing one and was so turned off by their lackluster attitude towards her that she left. They lost a sale.”

Is something in the air? Are we all exhausted? Were these interactions coincidental? Is it because businesses are shorthanded and have lowered their hiring standards? Have you noticed similar lack of enthusiasm at retail?

Service of Disappointment

Thursday, April 21st, 2022

The saying “less is more,” may apply to interior design but I’m finding that more and more we get less for our money.

What Happened to “Neither Rain nor Snow….”

There is a postbox about four blocks from my apartment in a commercial neighborhood with pickups three times a day, the last at 5 p.m. When I went there this week the times had changed: Now its once a day at 11:00 a.m. not only there but in all the boxes I checked nearby. That early in the day might be a good time for postal workers perhaps but not so hot for customers.

Yes then No

A friend was scheduled for surgery which entailed three days in the hospital and a week at a rehab facility. She knew the drill from a previous operation and all was approved. The day before hospital discharge she learned that her insurance wouldn’t cover the cost of rehab. She lives alone. Don’t you love how insurance companies–not doctors–determine how we are treated?

Poor Training

I tried to buy a gift online and the system wouldn’t work so I called the 800 number and placed the order. I opted to pick up the item at the store, a short walk from home because its feather weight and tiny size didn’t warrant the $6.99 shipping fee. The customer service rep said they’d send it home, as it was easier, [not sure for whom], and he’d remove the shipping fee. Long story short, when I was charged the fee I called and customer service told me I had to work it out with my credit card company. This didn’t set well so I contacted headquarters and eventually it was sorted. No more online purchases for me from these folks. Customer care operators should be trained not to turn off customers.

Have you been disappointed by a service lately?

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Service of Persistence Pays if You Luck Into an Adolfo Hererra

Monday, January 10th, 2022


Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

I first wrote about my issues with Verizon Wireless November, 2021 in “Service of Automation Hiccups.” I’d been unable to get credit for the paperless option I’d agreed to in spite of countless calls to customer service.  On one call I agreed to change the account from my deceased husband’s name to mine.

With that my FIOS bundle–phone, Wi-Fi and cable–increased by $400+/year and I’d not been warned this would happen.

A strident conversation with a nasty customer service person who told me I’d committed fraud by keeping the account in Homer’s name increased my irritation and disenchantment. She hit the ceiling when I said I felt bamboozled and explained I hadn’t been but that I wasn’t eligible for the discounts he had. When I was explaining the situation she said in a voice filled with sarcasm, “Are you through?”

That’s when I wrote Ronan Dunne, executive VP and group CEO of Verizon Consumer. I wrote that to take away discounts given a man because a woman was now the customer was sexist. My credit is excellent, we had been decades-long customers, have other Verizon accounts and pointed out that it was my checks paying for the bundle from the get-go. Nothing changed but the first name.



Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay  

Soon after I heard from Adolfo Hererra, a member of the Verizon executive relations team. He was thorough and polite and he listened. He warned me of some things that might happen although he did what he could to avert them. For example, auto pay took money to satisfy Homer’s cancelled account and a few days later took money for my new one.

Throughout the process I knew I was in good hands. Hererra always called when he said he would and he returned my calls promptly.

In the end, he gave me a credit of $50 because of the time it took to sort out the tangle. With a company as big as Verizon I suspect he and his team had to knock on many doors, starting with the one to initiate the elusive discount for the paperless option. I’d agreed to it in August 2021 and it will kick in January or February 2022. Only when he was certain that I’d be receiving the discount for going paperless–he’d said he could confirm this in early January–would he close the case. We spoke last week right on schedule. He assured me that I’d get the discount. He also securely closed Homer’s account and sent a debit card to refund the money that shouldn’t have been taken to begin with.

He feels pleased when he brings down an unsatisfied customer from a ledge of anger and frustration. Thank goodness for dedicated customer service employees like Adolfo Hererra.

Can you share a recent example of top of the line customer service in an era of rampant neglected emails and phone messages and often pleasant sounding customer service people who say they will do something and they don’t?


Image by Magic Creative from Pixabay

Service of Expectations III

Monday, December 27th, 2021

Margaret Brennan on Face the Nation

I wrote the first two in this series in 2012 (though I suspect there are many posts in which dashed expectations are at the core).


Image by Please Don’t sell My Artwork AS IS from Pixabay 

In one I covered highlights of irritants identified in a customer service survey where rudeness, passing the buck, waiting too long for problem resolution and having to follow-up too often topped the list of complaints and disappointments. In the other I described a person who didn’t send a message that he was kept waiting for his doctor’s appointment for three hours. He refused to own a mobile phone and didn’t ask the receptionist to borrow hers. Friends expecting his visit that afternoon were frantic when he didn’t show and didn’t call–which they expected him to do.

In a recent Social Q’s column in The New York Times, Philip Galanes responded to Ally who asked “Why Doesn’t Anyone Put as Much Effort Into Secret Santa as I Do? A reader feels consistently disappointed by her family’s gift exchange.” In part of his response he wrote: “This is like shopping regularly for heirloom tomatoes at the hardware store. You will never find them there! Try to lower your expectations before the unwrapping begins. Consider the other ways your relatives show they care.”

How many viewers of Face the Nation expect to be able to walk in heels as high as the ones Margaret Brennan wears [photo above]? Here she was this Sunday interviewing Vice President Kamala Harris. Do you think she walks far in them? I was on a set before a client’s TV interview where the host slipped off Uggs boots and put on heels just before cameras rolled.

Some friends respond to emails and texts and expect others to as well–but they don’t or it takes them ages to do so. Others generously share their contacts but that favor is never returned. These situations generate feelings of disrespect.

I see signs in windows for “quick turnaround PCR tests” for Covid and understand that there will be laws to punish those who lie as there must be plenty of them. They promise results in a day when the reality is closer to five.

My advice for happiness: Drop expectations. Agree?


Image by Samuel F. Johanns from Pixabay 

Service of Perfect Customer Care: A Michaels’ Cashier Wins

Friday, November 26th, 2021

Photo: michaels.com

As I write on Black Friday I think about Angela, a cashier at Michaels on Sixth Avenue and 23rd Street in NYC.  If she didn’t love her job she gets my kudos for being a great actor.

I’d waited to pay in a long line for noon on a workday. She greeted me with an angelic smile befitting her name and asked if I had any coupons. I said “no.” She asked if I was ever a Michaels member. I had been when I lived upstate three years ago. She told me to type in my phone number on their website. It worked.

To save time, she expertly directed me from memory to click the right spots on the site. Boom. I was recognized and got a 20 percent discount.

Meanwhile to protect the item I was buying she’d quickly wrapped it in paper as carefully as a gift. She didn’t ask me if she should.

Not once, when I thanked her, did she say “no problem,” two words that drive me nuts. She would have been one of the only service people who had reason to as in all ways she went beyond the strict requirements of her job which was to ring up the sale and hand me my purchase. When I thank a person who has done her/his job, “no problem” is irritating and inappropriate.

I hope you run into an Angela as you find a perfect gift you hope will please. Have you already?


Image by NguyenLe365 from Pixabay

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

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