Archive for the ‘Customer Care’ Category

Service of White Coat Syndrome: Hooray for the NYU Langone Emergency Room

Monday, March 25th, 2024

Some of the Peanuts gifts I’ve received–and love. The socks made it into this post.

I have a thing about pickles—they must come from a barrel and never a jar. I love the Peanuts gang, and I am petrified of—though grateful for—doctors and all things medical. You know this if you know me.

I flew in the air and crashed down on the sidewalk last week and for the next three days watched my foot increasingly resemble a blue balloon as the swelling from ankle on down began to hide my toes. Friends pleaded with me to get an Xray or to do something. I kept thinking that home remedies like ice, Arnica, Tylenol and leg-in-the-air under pillows would improve things, but they didn’t.

On Sunday morning I was horrified by what I saw. [I couldn’t look at my skinned other knee.] I called my friend DK, who dropped everything—she had plans–to come to my rescue. As luck would have it, we couldn’t get to an Urgent Care office for an Xray because of a mini marathon that had overtaken my neighborhood. So, we walked/hobbled, to the NYU Langone emergency room about six blocks away.

An emergency room visit for me has been my worst nightmare. My heart was beating so hard that the staff taking my vitals gave me an electrocardiogram. They were darling, patient and kind. One lowered his voice when I mentioned white coat syndrome and said, “Relax! We’re not doctors!” And they kept telling me, “Take deep breaths.”

I won’t put you to sleep with too many more details because I will resemble a grandmother boasting for 10 minutes about her three-month-old grandbaby, a future Yale graduate for sure, who smiled at her for the first time.

The emergency room experience was nothing like what I expected. In the waiting room there were no patients dripping with blood or passing out from fever. I hardly sat down before the admitting process started. Waiting for my Xray, after I met the Emergency Room doctor whom I liked, one nurse advised me how long he thought the wait would be. He subsequently brought me a blanket because it was freezing. A volunteer dropped by and asked if I needed anything. Nobody so much as hung my tote bag on the hook behind me on the wheelchair without first asking if it was OK.

The doctor didn’t just ask me to “take off your sock.” He said, “Please take off your Snoopy sock.” That put me at ease in a strange way. The very young hospital transport staffer who took me back from Xray was lovely. To explain what her colleague, who passed us, had told her– “It’s gotten to be like a Monday out there” — she said that the now bustling waiting room had filled up with mini marathon runners.

My badly sprained foot is still a mess—much uglier and more painful than when I broke it 10 years ago.

I don’t think I’ll ever overcome my out of proportion fear of all things medical. On my return home I went up in the elevator with a fellow tenant—a stranger. I raved about the hospital. He smiled and said “I’ve just returned from 22 days at that hospital. The doctors are wonderful.”

Do you have irrational fears about medical or other things that most others appreciate and/or take in their stride? Did you also experience a great emergency room visit?

View from my balcony. NYU Langone is on the left/East side of First Avenue, starting at the blue buildings.

Service of a Perfect Evening Enhanced by Stellar Customer Service

Monday, March 11th, 2024

Great service turned a wonderful evening into a spectacular one.

It began with an excellent dinner at Fiorella’s, an enormous, popular restaurant across from Lincoln Center that’s hopping with happy patrons especially before performances. It nevertheless serves excellent food and provides professional, top-notch service.

Next we went to hear the Quartetto di Cremona at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in Alice Tully Hall. The two violinists, a cellist and violist chose to play pieces by Dmitri Shostakovich, Osvaldo Golijov and Franz Schubert.

The Italian town of Cremora, known for producing fine violins, is in Lombardy, on the Po River’s left bank, 85 miles from Milan. One of the violins played by the musicians, a Cremona, was made in 1640. The other instruments were made in different Italian cities and dated from 1680 to 1758. But I digress.

As Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 8 began, I asked myself, “what tip did I leave the waiter?” followed by the realization that I’d not signed the check, that my credit card remained in the folder and my heart sank.

I dashed out of Alice Tully Hall during intermission and asked the guard to remember me and let me in again. He laughed and reassured me that there would be no problem.

I sprinted back to Fiorella’s, the host opened a drawer with a bunch of credit cards, and there was mine between an American Express Gold Card and a silver card of some sort. The host found the waiter who had the check, I added a tip—I was upset about this omission as well–and hurried back to Lincoln Center. The restaurant was clearly used to lamebrain customers like me and were not concerned that they had been stiffed.

At the end of the concert, after a standing ovation, we started to descend the stairs towards an exit when an usher rushed over to say that there would be one—maybe two—encores. If we left the auditorium, he said, we couldn’t get back in. The quartet’s choice of Puccini was divine. We were grateful to the proactive usher.

We learned something on the 68th Street crosstown bus where a bunch of us, who had exited Lincoln Center, started to speak. One woman kept referring to her “group.” We asked her “what group were you with?” She explained that she was an usher and that each usher is responsible for a portion of the concert hall. That explained why “our” usher raced down the stairs to inform us of the encore. She also told us why we enjoyed only one. “You didn’t clap vigorously enough!” She debunked what a coat check staffer told us—that there was only five minutes left according to union rules so it didn’t leave enough time for more music. She said, “They don’t know anything.”

Do you rejoice when perfect service enhances a flawless evening? Does it happen often?

Service of Fiddling with the Price

Monday, January 15th, 2024

Fiddle with the price, change it a few times in succession or cause a client to question your charges is the fastest way to lose a customer. I keep thinking of a used car salesman who declares, “Oh, you wanted a steering wheel with that?”

A friend fell victim to just such a potential flimflam regarding a beauty procedure. Her specialist left the place she’d used and she didn’t like the other operators. She tried another place in the same building that offered a Groupon discount. She went last month and was told that they would honor the same discount should she return this month–$46 instead of $95.

When she called for an appointment last week she mentioned she expected the Groupon rate as promised. But when she arrived the specialist pointed to the $95 charge on the pricelist and said she’d give her a 20 percent discount.

My friend said, “no that’s not what you told me-it’s $46.”

Then the operator asked for a screenshot showing the discount. As she had been the person who told her about the deal—and didn’t write it anywhere—my friend had nothing to show.

The operator ended up honoring the $46 and wrote on a loyalty card for next month: “$95 less 15 percent.”

My friend corrected her, reminding her that she’d said 20 percent earlier. She then revised the loyalty card.

But my friend has lost confidence in the shop. She wondered if the service provider thought she was stupid or a pushover. She tipped $5 less than the first time [and in my opinion, very generous especially under the circumstances]. Even with the 20 percent discount, the charge is higher than the original place, where they include the tip in the fee.

Do you think my friend should return to the second shop? Have you experienced a service that similarly slip slides around with its prices?

Service of Custom-Made Fast Food at Pain Quotidien

Monday, May 15th, 2023

On my way to pick up a friend who had a few pulled teeth and surgery on her jaw requiring anesthesia, I remembered how she liked the yogurt at Le Pain Quotidien. She didn’t realize what she was in for. The day before she suggested that after the procedure we have tea at this, her favorite place. Knowing we’d not be going for tea after such an ordeal I didn’t want to alarm her, so I said “sure.”

Dashing in to buy some—a last minute thought because there’s very little that she will eat under any circumstance, soft or not–I stopped when I saw the granola on top. I knew that granola would be an insurmountable hurdle for her that day and probably that week. As luck would have it, a young man—Martin–was adding sandwiches and straightening the offerings at the branch on Third Avenue and 44th Street.

This isn’t a deli where the counterman or woman can leave out the onions in a salad or add mustard and mayo to a roll or slice of rye. Salads and sandwiches are made to grab and go. I hesitated to bother Martin and am glad I did. Turns out he is a chef. I asked if it would be possible to remove the granola and explained why. He agreed about the circumstances and didn’t hesitate. He said he’d have to ask the manager about the price and disappeared in the back.

Minutes later he returned with just what I’d requested.

I’m not a fussy eater and have never asked for an adjustment in an establishment like this. I was happily surprised at how accommodating Martin was. Do you have similar examples of custom treatment at a fast-food restaurant?

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 Perfect Customer Care: A Michaels’ Cashier Wins

Friday, November 26th, 2021

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 Who Cares About the Customer?

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

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

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?”

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

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?

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