Posts Tagged ‘Customer Service’

Service of Retail Etiquette: How Does the Message Get So Garbled?

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

 

Photo: epicurious.com

Retail stores are having a heck of a time so when I hear of one that sells a good product but whose owner or employees miss the mark in service, I wonder what’s going on.

There’s a bakery in a charming Litchfield, Conn. town that sells scrumptious delicacies that look as delectable as they taste. Friends surprised me when they served a delicious cake from there at my last birthday, [I didn’t think they knew what day it was], so I know about the quality of the goodies.

Photo: archiesonline.com

The friends who made my birthday dinner—I’ll call them Fred and Paul–had been asked to buy brownies for another birthday person who preferred them over cake. Paul described what happened: “As we walked into the bake shop a man with an unpleasant look on his face stared at us. The brownies were under a glass bell, priced $3.00 each.

“Fred asked for 12. The owner was horrified—actually angry. He gritted his teeth and snapped ‘Why didn’t you call ahead!?’ He feared that there wouldn’t be enough for other customers.”

Paul continued, “Didn’t the owner register that we were giving him business too? He opened a bag—instead of a box–and threw them in, one by one, while continuing to seethe. I was close to telling him to keep them. Fred also controlled his anger. But we were stuck–we’d been asked to contribute these favorites.”

Photo: marthastewart.com

There’s a bakery on First Avenue and 57th Street in NYC—Andres–that sells amazing palmiers, aka elephant ears, which I adore. If for whatever reason they don’t have any when I drop in, I’ll go another time or I’ll remember to call first!

What does it matter who buys what you’ve made as long as you have no leftovers at closing? If a bakery’s logistics are faulty it’s not the customer’s responsibility. If you’d been Fred and Paul, would you also have held your tongue? Good bakeries are few and far between in rural areas. If you had walked out of this bakery without the brownies, what would you have told the hostess and what would you have brought instead?

Photo: pinterest

Service of Giving a Second Chance

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

Second Chance

After a more than trying experience at the china department of Macy’s New York many years ago—trying, the operative word, to buy a wedding gift where the bride had registered–I swore I’d not return to the store. I broke this pledge last weekend, not in the city but in Poughkeepsie, NY, and was rewarded ten fold.

We visited the men’s shoe department and lucked into a sales associate who knew shoes, fit, and his way around customers. Troy Capp outdid himself to help. My husband wanted a slip-on shoe in a wide width but the store doesn’t stock them; we’d need to order a pair. To increase the possibility that the ordered shoe would fit, Capp measured his foot and brought out a few shoes with ties in various sizes by the manufacturer from whom he ended up ordering a slip-on.

macy'sThe style my husband preferred was quite a bit more expensive than another one he’d looked at and Capp found a discount coupon to help in the decision. He also gave us a way to reach him should the shoe that arrives not be just right.

shoe measuring toolHe actually seemed to enjoy solving my husband’s problem and helping us. We were dumbstruck as we were no longer used to such care. As we arrived in his department I noticed a family leaving with smiles and a young man in his late teens reaching out to shake Capp’s hand. He was also in charge of “tailored clothing,” according to his business card. While he was helping us a couple came to pick up a jacket. He didn’t skip a beat and while my husband was trying on a shoe he went in the back for the jacket, accommodating us both seamlessly, calmly and almost simultaneously.

Have you enjoyed the assistance of a salesman like Troy Capp? Are his skills trainable or instinctive? Have you given a company a second chance? Did the second experience work out well?

 vintage men's fashion

 

Service of Coming Clean II

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

hand washing dishes in sink 

A friend in NJ sent this to me. It identifies legitimate expectations of someone who invests in the best and anticipates equivalent service. She wrote:

I had an experience recently that calls service into question. 

We bought a Miele dishwasher about eight years ago.  It cost more than my husband’s first car, but we had done our research and decided it was worth it.  Up until now, we’ve been very happy with it.  But it developed a leak early this month, so I called Miele (which does all of its own servicing).  The person I spoke with in the service department was not the most congenial.  It took a fairly long time for him to find us in the system, because someone had spelled my name wrong when I made my last service call. (They had talked me through a minor repair some years back.) The appointment he gave me was a week in the future. 

dishwasherThe technician came and was very nice.  He brought a $600 pump on the assumption that was probably the problem.  But it wasn’t.  It was two inexpensive hoses, which he did not have on his service truck.  He pointed out the window to indicate how small the truck is and told me it had to hold everything he needs for a day’s scheduled repairs.  What he didn’t explain was why the assumption was that the pump was shot and the leak had nothing to do with simple hoses or gaskets. He assured me the parts were in the warehouse, said someone would call to schedule another service appointment, and assured me I would only be charged for a single visit. 

The next day I received an estimate for the cost of the repair, which said I had only five days to schedule an appointment before the estimate expired.  No one had called me so I called and waited a long time to talk to someone in the service department.  It turns out that all parts have to be shipped from the warehouse (here in NJ, where Miele is based and where I live) to the service tech (the techs work from home), and when he received them I would get a call to schedule an appointment. I insisted on prompt scheduling. My next appointment is a week from the first one. Assuming the dishwasher gets fixed then, we will have been without one for two weeks.

And I will have rearranged my schedule not once but twice to accommodate service appointments. 

repair vanWhen I asked the customer service person why Miele operated on this convoluted system, which is inconvenient for the customer, he said it’s because the company wants inventory in the warehouse, not on the service trucks.  My response was that if you send a tech out to fix a leaky dishwasher, he should have all the parts that might be needed in that situation, not just the priciest one. How much room do hoses take?  I pointed out that when you sell high-end appliances, you need to offer high-end service!  I also indicated that I’m in the process of replacing all the appliances in another kitchen and had just been in the Miele showroom two weeks ago to look at the latest dishwashers.  I’d also looked at the products of a competitor.

We have other high-end appliances, and I have had service on some of them over the years. I’ve never had to wait this long to get one of them fixed.  Most of the other brands do not have proprietary service, as Miele does.  Instead, they use authorized repair people who service multiple brands.  My neighbor had a problem with her dryer the other day and the service people were out here almost immediately!

dishwasher partsMy husband, who is very handy, even looked online to see if he could buy the parts and do the repair himself.  But unlike many of its competitors, Miele doesn’t sell parts.

I don’t mind washing dishes once in a while, although it’s a pain in the tail after a dinner party. But you don’t spend this much on a dishwasher to hand-wash your dishes for two weeks.  And I will be asking very different questions before I buy my next appliances.

People with both tight budgets and deep pockets buy top of the line appliances from local merchants because they expect to get better service when needed–though not too often–as well as to keep the equipment for a long time. Is this a myth? Are they better off buying cheap copies from big boxes and tossing them when they break?

dishwashers at dump

Service of Putting Yourself in Someone Else’s Shoes

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

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

Service of a Cheery “Hello”

Monday, September 29th, 2014

smiling cashier 4

Wall Street Journal columnist Joe Queenan doesn’t like friendly employees. If he returns to his local drugstore in a day, he resents it when cashiers wish him “a good one” for the fifth time. He expects them to remember that he’d been there recently.

And he wants greetings to be genuine. In “Save That ‘Hello’ for the Next Customer,” he wrote: “Not everyone at the drugstore is equally adept at being ‘spontaneously’ hospitable. A couple of staffers had not said hello to me or anyone else since the Clinton administration, but then one day some manager obviously cracked the whip. Suddenly, they started saying ‘Good morning’ in an android-like fashion, as if they had a gun cocked to their heads.”

smiling cashier 3Some of the cashiers admitted, when he asked, that they’d been instructed to be “extra nice to customers.” He observed that their tone especially grated when he went to the store after a funeral.

He complained that supermarkets give similar instructions to their cashiers who must tell a customer to have “‘a good one’ even if they look like they might smack you.” In addition to insincere employees who are cheery because they are told to be, he dislikes strangers who say “hello.”

He continued, “There are several issues here. Misanthropes—and there are a lot of us out here—think of hyper-effusive greetings as an invasion of privacy, almost as a casus belli. That’s why we like to vacation in France, where you hardly ever run the risk of encountering belligerent conviviality at the retail level.”

Smiling cashiers 1So he could be left alone he wishes that a store’s rewards card could be programmed to indicate to staff that this customer doesn’t like to be greeted with a smile.

I wasn’t able to tell how much of Queenan’s tongue was in his cheek. I complained to management at an upstate gas station convenience store about its belligerent staff because they ignored not only my greeting but me. One of the things I resented was the total silence in reaction to my “hello,” or “good morning,” as well as “might I pay for this please?

Do you like it when retail staff greets you with a smile and happy word or does it rub you the wrong way? How can you tell if a greeting is genuine? Does it matter? Should a cashier be expected to remember that a customer has been to the store several times in a day?

smiling cashier 2

Service of New York Experiences: Surprise Elegance and Not

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Panama hat

I recently bought low-priced items from people working tough jobs in uncomfortable circumstances with very different service experiences.

I paid $10 for something from a street cart and was impressed by the vendor’s elegant approach. There was nothing stylish or surprising about his goods or merchandising. His scarves, hats and paraphernalia looked like those on similar carts around the city. The temperature was flirting with 90 and the typical NYC summer humidity was enough to make anyone feel grumpy and lethargic if they were stuck on the street all day.

Photo: businessinsider.com

Photo: businessinsider.com

I handed the money to his young assistant who’d been helping me which she gave to him. [It was the first time I saw him.] She asked me if I wanted a bag. I said I didn’t want to eat into the profits. He took my item, opened an “I love NY” plastic sack, placed my purchase inside and handed it to me as though it was an important purchase wrapped in the finest paper bag with elegant logo and ribbon handles. His expression: “we do things right here.” I’ve been treated with far less decorum by sales associates at luxury retail establishments. 

A few days before I was on lunch break from jury duty in one of the handsome buildings seen on the “Law & Order” TV series in downtown Manhattan. Given the time I had to eat and return to the jury waiting area I decided takeout was the wise option. Heading toward Chinatown I saw a short line of men wearing suits or business pants and shirts. They were outside a tiny establishment that accommodated two people at the serving counter and sold only dumplings and buns. The shabby shop on a narrow street nevertheless had an A sanitation rating.

Chinese dumplingsThe middle aged woman taking and fulfilling the orders barked at customers if she spoke at all. The customer behind me was familiar with the routine and guided me. I can’t blame her: Given the scorching hot dumplings—I had to wait quite a while before I could eat them without burning my mouth—imagine standing behind a steam apparatus that heated the food on a summer afternoon. I didn’t feel air conditioning inside. The dumplings cost $1 for five. I ate most of 10 on a bench outside a playground in the shade of a giant tree.

I was happy with my purchase from the street vendor because of his positive approach. The shockingly modest price of the toothsome dumplings and unconventional lunch [I usually eat yogurt and popcorn at my desk] balanced the unfriendly communication with the restaurant server. [I say restaurant as there were a few stools for those who wanted to eat in.] Who expects a smile with $2 worth of dumplings?

Do you anticipate reduced treatment when you don’t pay a lot and are you at times surprised?

Photo: morristowngreen.com

Photo: morristowngreen.com

Service of Someone at the Other End of the Line

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Vintage telephone operator

In the middle of Tuesday’s snowstorm, while we were crawling in traffic, I listened to a friend call a hotel restaurant–our destination. She wanted to say we might be late. She also wanted to ask which entrance we should take as there were several. [One of us had recently recovered from a broken ankle which sported a pin. She wasn’t in the mood for a hospital reprise from a misstep in slush/ice/snow.] After as many as 25 rings she ended in voicemail, left the message and asked that someone return the call to inform her about the entrance. Nobody called.

On phone in snowShe next tried the hotel switchboard—where the operator answered the entrance question—and after many more rings, still nobody picked up. On our arrival–the room was almost empty due to the weather–my friend asked the hostess if there was a phone at her station and recounted her experience. “Someone picks up downstairs,” the hostess replied, noting that yes, there also was a phone at her station.

After this the service was perfect.

Delta takeoffMy friend was due to leave the city Tuesday evening but her flight was cancelled. This well-travelled Elite Service member called me the next morning to tell me of an astonishing thing that just happened when she called Delta Airlines to gauge her chances for her Wednesday afternoon flight. A computer voice welcomed her by name, apologized that the airline had to cancel her Tuesday flight and asked her to push a letter on her phone if she wanted to speak with someone. She did, expecting to wait ages when almost immediately a live person asked her, again by name, how she might help her.

Even though when we spoke** she still didn’t know whether or not the afternoon flight would go—all Wednesday morning and night flights had already been cancelled—this 30 year Elite Service member was brimming with delight that it had been so easy for her to reach a live voice, at an airline no less, under these stressful [for them after a storm with so many cancelled flights] circumstances! “It was a first,” she said. **She was scheduled to depart on the afternoon flight when we spoke again just before takeoff.

Hooray for Delta! What a difference an easily accessible caring voice can make. Wonder why more businesses don’t realize this [especially one, like the hotel restaurant, that’s already paying for two people to answer a phone and nobody does]?

Children playing telephone 1

Service of Exemplary Service

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

APlus

Here are a few recent instances of people who performed well beyond expectations. What a joyful way to end the month of May!

Cleanup

Kelsi, a teenage checkout person at the A&P in Pleasant Valley, NY shocked me when she opened a box of erase sponges in my pile of things on the conveyor belt. “Missing two, thought so,” she said.

Groceries“How could you possibly tell?” I asked her, astonished as these sponges weigh as much as whipped egg whites. While she sent someone back to retrieve an intact box she said, “In training they sent through a woman with an empty pizza box. You pick it up.” It turns out that the person who stole the two sponges went to town: Many of the remaining boxes were also missing two.

In the Chips

After a strenuous visit to a physical therapist for a bum arm my husband, [who is also inching out of a year with chronic Lyme disease so he must use his energy sparingly] dropped by Fairway on East 86th Street in Manhattan. I’d asked him to pick up a bag of my favorite Fairway restaurant style tortilla chips as he was in the neighborhood.

Tortilla chipsOn entering, he asked a young man where to find them. He responded: “Wait here, I’ll be right back,” and he ran downstairs, soon emerging with just the right chips. Did my husband have written on his face or in his body language, “I hate shopping and I don’t want to be here?” I wager he may go back to that store anyway because he called me on the spot—he also dislikes speaking on his mobile phone—to tell me how pleased and surprised he was at this glorious service.

Seamless Service

MendingIt’s dry cleaning season. I went to Thims in its Salt Point, NY branch to pick up a load of fresh woolens and a skirt came back outside the plastic protective bags with a handwritten note that Heather Killmer read to me. The note inquired whether I wanted the tailor to fix a tiny tear on a seam before the garment was cleaned. There were precise instructions as to where this tear was located—we needed them. I mentioned to Ms. Killmer how astonished I was that someone had even noticed such a microscopic flaw. “We carefully go over every piece before we clean it,” she smiled.

Do you think, “What’s the big deal, these people are doing their jobs” or do you agree we’ve lucked in to some special operations or individuals? Can you share similar service experiences?  

Cherry on top

Service of an Expert Salesman

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Dancing with Fred A

When an improved product and expert salesman mesh, it’s a pleasure to spend money. For a service fanatic, it’s poetry to behold–like dancing with a star.

This happened to us the other week when Barry Lang from Audia Motor Sales in Millbrook, NY called to tell us our lease had expired on our Chevy Malibu. My husband Homer Byington, not a car enthusiast, was impressed by the negotiation. He said, “I knew I had to do something about the lease, and Barry got to me before I reached out to Audia. There was plenty of time to make a decision: Buy the car we’d driven for three years or lease a new one.

Chevy Malibu“He could tell I was technologically illiterate and conducted his sales pitch in language I could understand,” said Homer. “He also priced his offer competitively, not taking advantage of me.” Homer had checked with a family member in a related business who confirmed the lease price was fair.

Meanwhile, while we liked the 2010 Malibu we turned in, it had its faults, every one of which was addressed in the 2013 auto. The designers reduced the size of the side view mirror that previously had been so big that at certain angles I had to practically stand up in my seat while making a left hand turn for fear of running over someone hidden behind the device. The windshield seems bigger and the rear headrests smaller increasing visibility. Chevy also removed a lump that housed a break light at eye level for the cars behind, which took away rear window visibility for the driver. And it added handles above each door as a standard feature and enlarged the glove compartment.

Back to Barry. He was patient with our questions, explaining how the car’s Bluetooth system worked and other features basic for most but unfamiliar to us. We took a week to decide whether to buy or lease again and a car in the color we liked–a blue/gray–was still there on our return. When we noted this Barry said he’d reserved it for us.

snooty car salesmanWe’ve written previously about how friends and family members have been treated dismissively and disrespectfully by showroom staff selling highfalutin brands with hefty price tags. We don’t think Barry could make someone feel diminished; arrogance isn’t his style yet he could sell high end products with equal success.

If you drop in to Audia Motors, my bet is that one of the Audias will be there. One brother, Peter, chatted with us briefly last Saturday before we signed up and this Saturday Bob handed me my permanent NY State registration. During the week someone at Audia had paid for and picked it up at Motor Vehicles.

Can you share a boast about a similar sales experience for any product?

Happy Customer

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