Introduction: You Can Bank On It

November 5th, 2008

Categories: Customer Service


Welcome to The Importance of Earnest Service‘s first post. I’m excited to get started, so I refer you to “About This Blog,” here, to read more about what the blog will cover.

You need the best service when you feel time-pressured and stressed. Don’t computers–or e-mail servers–revolt as you put the finishing touches on a project that’s on deadline?  Appliances too. Refrigerators die on the 4th of July weekend when you expect company and a sun-broiled New York City fire escape or sweltering porch are not options for storing food and drinks. In either instance, you’re in a super swivet as you reach for help on the phone or the web, which some customer service reps understand. That makes all the difference.

Doesn’t the attitude and competence of the person you deal with seem even more crucial when you feel thin-skinned? The reason you’re at the end of your rope doesn’t matter: job insecurity, a loved one’s health, acceptance of a child in a school or college, financial pressures to pay for same, worry over out-of-work relatives and friends or concern about their shrinking incomes and savings-or yours. When you get to your office to find your takeout coffee is black with sugar–you clearly ordered it with milk–you feel angry, almost insulted, because someone cared less.

When rested, happy, in control and feeling beneficent, you can afford to be more tolerant if confronted with a glitch and inadequate service–up to a point.

Will we share more positive or negative experiences as time goes on? We’ll see.

If you would like to submit a post, please let me know. Hit  “contact us” at the bottom of the page. I also look forward to reading your comments about your experiences. Strike “Comments” [or if you’re first, “No Comments,”] below. 

You can Bank On It

Now that I’ve introduced my blog, here’s my opening thought.

Banks have been in the news lately. I haven’t yet figured out whether the bailout will cover banker’s bonuses. Aren’t bonuses supposed to be like tips: You get them when you deserve them and the amount depends on how well you’ve performed? If a bank, or any business, requires a bailout, does its staff deserve bonuses?

It was while waiting in long lines at bank customer service desks that it first hit me: the words hanging over many of these desks are an oxymoron. I can’t erase from my memory the bored look of “get over it,” combined with a dollop of  “big deal,” when a customer service officer told me I’d have to wait to clear up a $6,000+ bank error. The bank had subtracted $6,390 from my account instead of $63.90. I wasn’t frantic over 50 cents, for goodness sakes. While practically tapping her fingers on the desk with impatience, Ms. Customer Service told me I’d get a fax of the check in question by the end of the business day. It took three months to clear up that discrepancy.

Another time, a major bank closed our business account by mistake, without letting us know–we learned about it from an unhappy supplier–and when we asked the reason, the banker told us, “it was for your own good,” with no other explanation. So we moved the account to a privately owned upstate New York bank with a headquarters in one town and a branch in another. Its staff is responsive and attentive, the lines are never too long, and so far, they haven’t lost our money or our account: We consider this a bonus.

18 Responses to “Introduction: You Can Bank On It”

  1. Dan Waldron Said:

    I just stopped by your blog and thought I would say hello. I like your site design. Looking forward to reading more down the road.

  2. David Reich Said:

    Welcome to the blogosphere, Jeannie. I’m thrilled to be offering your first comment (unless someone beat me to it as I’m writing this.)

    It’s quite appropriate that you will focus on service. In these times of automation, big box stores, the internet, too many businesses have neglected service. It’s gotten to the point where those companies that do offer good service use it as a selling point.

    So I look forward to reading here about service and how it impacts us in business and in our everyday lives.

  3. Lisa McGee Said:

    Great post – feel like such a New Yorker reading it again, but let me tell you…things in Ireland are just so different. I’ve had to lower my expectations here because things are done in the Irish way on Irish time and it sure ain’t New York time honey!! Yes, irritating at times but I did’t move to Ireland to have the same thing I had in New York but I do wish people would return phone calls and get back to me when they say they well….hey, there’s an idea for my own blog! Best of luck with it – can’t wait to read more. Lisa

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Thanks, Lisa and David!

    Lisa, you haven’t been gone from NY that long…but there are people who don’t return their calls in the States, either–and we know who they are!

    David, you and your super blog, my 2 cents––helped inspire me to join you.

    Great to hear from you both. Jeanne

  5. Dvorah Said:

    Hey Jeanne….Great to read this….having had the incredible experience of celebrating in the streets of Chelsea on Tuesday with total strangers I felt as though the world had changed… until I had to go on a bus. On my first bus a young man let the rear doors of the bus slam into an elderly woman…..he was in too much of a rush to care who was behind him. On the way home another elderly woman with one of those back packs on wheels couldn’t get it up on the bus because the bus driver was too lazy to lean the bus. NO ONE on the bus got up to help this old lady until I finally got up from the very back of the bus to go help her. I guess I was naive to think that Obama’s acceptance speech might have influenced our selfish little world.

    Keep up the great work…

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Thanks, Dvorah,

    Was sorry to hear your stories because I’d hoped all of our spirits had been lifted—for at least a week.

    Maybe people too busy or selfish to see what’s going on around them heard, but weren’t able to absorb, President Elect Obama’s words or perhaps their TVs were broken and they missed his elegant acceptance speech. Anyone who missed it can see it at

    Thanks again for your comments. Jeanne

  7. Elizabeth R. Baecher Said:

    I disagree (as usual). People will be people regardless of election results. Stinkers are not going to become angelic because of Obama. You also might have forgotten to consider that passengers and driver were McCain supporters feeling appropriately grouchy that day!
    I voted for Obama and approve this message :))

    Oooops! Where am I? Thought this was the SodaHead blog. This is the Earnest one…..Great blog!

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Thanks for your comment and fresh point of view about Dvorah’s experience.

    I have found that when my candidate doesn’t win or if I’ve had a fight with the cat that it helps me rid myself of the grumps by looking out for someone else.

    In the context of service, however, the driver who didn’t lower the bus step to help the elderly woman was at fault. He isn’t paid to take his mood out on his customers.

  9. Terri Said:

    Now I know we must be related somehow. “Service” or I should say “the lack of Service” is at the core of my frequent rantings.

    Here’s one BIG gripe. “Having to be my own gas station attendant.” It ——- me off no end. If I wanted to be a gas station attendant, I would have been one (complete with a pressed, clean uniform with my name on the lapel, I might add).

    I carry in my car a pair of yellow Playtex “dishpan” type gloves that I put on before I have to fill up. Sometimes I feel like a man with a horse who’s just ridden up to the hitching post. I look around me and see everyone else at the pumps, some of them dressed so elegantly to go to an office in business suits, high heels, etc., and I think to myself, “what a disgrace. Does America think everyone wants to be a cowboy?” And who really pockets the difference? Has it made gas cheaper for us? Of course not. The big oil companies enjoy the savings. There’s so much wrong with this picture and yet the country has accepted it. Whenever I’ve driven up to New York I always try to time my “fill ups” to when I’m passing through New Jersey because it’s the one state that doesn’t allow people to pump their own gas. It feels like such a luxury to be waited on. And they even clean the windshield for you.

    Your new blog is beautiful, a great idea and I’ll visit it again soon.

    Another beef is cell phone etiquette–or the lack of it. “Where the heck is Miss Manners?”

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Thanks for your comments. Years ago I rented a car with a friend and when we went to fill it up late the first night, we couldn’t find the gas tank–it was hidden under the license plate. We had to wait for another customer to come along to help us. We felt so silly!

    Learning what drives readers happy or nuts is great. We had a choice at gas stations for a while–pay a little more and you’d get help at the gas tank–though this is no longer an option. Jeanne

  11. Melissa Said:

    Congrats on your new blog! Indeed, service is SO important and I’ll add that it has become extremely important in the healthcare industry, with a trend toward more resources devoted to service improvement and enhancing the patient experience.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I just mentioned a hospital example in response to Seneca, who wrote in the WELCOME area of the blog, below. I noted how important a simple smile or “hi” can feel from someone giving you breakfast in a hospital room. Thanks for your comment.

  13. Tom Said:

    What a great idea, Jeanne! Sadly, we all have our stories of inattentive and rude treatment at the hands of those on the other side of the counter. Many times I feel sorry for them (“they’re having a bad day,” “they probably just had a fight with a spouse,” etc., etc.), and there are other times I just want to wring their necks. Hope you have an enjoyable time blogging away!

  14. Jeanne Said:

    Thanks, Tom.

    Another excuse people make for bad counter service is that the person isn’t paid enough: To be polite; to be attentive; to be knowledgeable etc. etc. Doesn’t work for me.

    I am sorry if someone isn’t paid what they need or feel they should get, but why should I—-a customer–be blamed or punished? Many people take jobs—or clients—that don’t pay much. Doing a crummy job won’t help get the next, better paying position or client and will make everyone, including the grump, feel worse at day’s end.

  15. Deirdre Said:

    Hey, Jeanne, your blog is beautiful. Really well done. And I’m so glad you’re writing on this topic. I htinnk you’ll civilize New York single-handedly.

    All the best!

  16. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Thanks, Deirdre!

    I think that far more than NYC needs civilizing, in fact, I have had more issues lately with non-NY-based enterprises….and some positive experiences to share from this place that I hope to, soon. In any case, we’ll have a good time either way. Look forward to reading your future comments. Jeanne

  17. Matt Mecs Said:

    Hi Jeanne,
    First off, I admire your patience. I would have been less than happy with a $6000 bank error, and having to sit around while they take their sweet time. A cliche in my business is that clients do not care now much you know, until they know how much you care. It sounds simple enough, but it is amazing that you can shine just by doing a mildly competent job. In the meantime, patience is needed in infinite quantities…

  18. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Thanks for your comment that captures a key point–caring.

    If a waiter, who can’t get the chef to move things along, keeps you informed and offers a free glass of wine or a contractor takes the trouble to explain that your fixtures or cabinets are delayed–so you don’t arrive home on the day they are to be installed to find it out yourself and to disappointment–you might be frustrated, but you won’t be angry. Jeanne

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