What Happened To Customer Service?

Today I was talking with the owner of Fire Wok here is San Antonio (which is a fantastic, fast, affordable local restaurant by the way) discussing the death of customer service in America.  We both agreed that we could take any company and make it a success just by tweeking this aspect of the business.  This week has been the ultimate customer service let down for me.  How so?  Well let me briefly summarize statements I was told this week by two service departments at Mercedes Benz dealerships and a Hilton Hotel  (whose locations I won’t name for legal reasons but you know who you are!) and display the proper way each situation should have been handled.

1) “Look at my red light.  It’s not blinking so you didn’t leave a message.” Calling the customer a liar under any circumstances should be frowned on, but especially when you are in the wrong.  What response would I have given if the tables were reversed?  How about “I’m so sorry that your message didn’t reach me.  Perhaps there was an error with the messaging service.  In any case, let me assure you we’re doing our best to process your vehicle as soon as possible.  It’s been a busy day today but we know your from out of town and we’re trying to push your car to the top.  I’ll call you as soon as I have some news.” Notice that in my proposed statement no blame is shifted onto the customer, there is also no blame accepted by the service person.  Identify the customer’s concern and simply provide a solutions.

2) “Hurry up.  I don’t need anyone straggling behind.” This statement was addressed at my wife who was looking at her phone and had dropped about 20 paces behind the service person and myself as we entered the garage to look at our vehicle.  Needless to say this made her a little upset and she chose to stay outside instead.  No apology was offered.  An alternative response?  How about keeping your personal frustration to yourself for one.  If the person really is lingering a bit too long how about, “Hey, maybe we should wait a moment for your wife” or “Is everything ok?” Or some other sort of “friendly” reminder.

3) After being asked to install a $130 part before a $2100 part to see if if would work reply is: “If you don’t trust us then why are you here.” Believe it or not this statement was told to me by the second Mercedes dealership I visited, completely unrelated to the above.  Instead how about if he had tried “If you want that part put on first that is fine.  But I’d like to point out that it most likely won’t result in your error codes being fixed and we’d recommend starting with the other item.  But we’d be happy to meet your request if you so desire.”

4) “Your name didn’t pull up on my screen.  How did you get in that room?  You didn’t check in!  What is your name?  Please hold” I’m calling down to get my internet working and they think I’ve broken into a hotel room, great.  Instead how about LOOKING UP MY NAME AND SEEING THAT I’M A DIAMOND VIP THAT STAYS MORE THAN 100 NIGHTS PER YEAR. It’s not my problem that you’re computer system issued me a key on check in then deleted me.

5) “You don’t get breakfast even though you’re on the Concierge level because there are people there who paid for that access.  You chose free internet as your perk so the breakfast isn’t available.” After being shown their own policy that states I do get breakfast because I’m a Diamond member, I was told “Stand here until the manager gets here and show him.  I’m only doing what I’m told.” Ok I’m not sure where to start on this one.  How about “Wow I had never read that policy before.  I’m so sorry for the misunderstanding.  If you don’t mind please let me get the manager so that I can show him too.  In the mean time, let me get you two coupons for two free breakfast for your trouble.

6)  “I had already charged you our normal rate of $139.  I’ll change it to the $89 you were supposed to have but your card will be charged twice.  Depending on your bank you should get the credit back in a few days.  It all depends on your bank.” First of all how about charging me $89 that you read back to me when I told you my rate on check-in rate was $89.  What good does it do a front desk person to charge a higher rate?  Is there some kind of new commission on rooms?  The appropriate response here would be “I credited the original charge back to your card and charged the correct amount instead.  If you have any problems please call us back.  Thank you!”

Tone of voice, facial expressions, and wording is everything when trying to make someone feel good or feel awful.  In customer service, one’s entire job is to make people feel good.  CSR’s must understand that if a person is upset it’s not at them, it’s at the company as a whole.  We must set personal feelings aside and try to analyze what the customer’s concerns are and how we can do our best to fix them to a reasonable degree.  For many decades America has been considered the customer service capital.  These days I find myself almost hoping to just talk to someone from India.

3 thoughts on “What Happened To Customer Service?

  1. I totally agree, I just had some poor customer service with Cricket Cell Phone. I called to change to a new phone, gave them the new esn. But the new phone didn’t work. So we hung up. I then proceeded to use my current phone which didn’t work. So I called them up and they are like..well sir we don’t show your old esn in our system can you call us back from a landline..I’m like what?? I’m not going to sit on hold again. I was like I just talked to you 2 mins ago. Okay let me see what I can do. Okay I found your old esn number. but it’s going to take 24hrs before your phone starts working.. can you belive that? I was so mad. People just don’t seem to care. Not to mention they charged me TWICE for the programming fee.

  2. Most of your examples are voluntary, meaning those employees had a choice to do the right thing, which is sad that they didn’t. Alternatively, I think many corporate policies are effectively forcing bad service.I used to be a CSR for a large telecommunications company, not mentioning any names (*cough, iPhone provider, *cough). It was hell. Service reps were reprimanded or terminated if they didn’t follow a specific call-pattern (among other things). Things such as mandatory verbiage wasn’t bad, but being required to attempt a sale and overcome their objections on every customer was completely absurd and often offending (especially with those who were calling because of lost jobs, divorces, ongoing service issues, etc.).Frequently many of the customers were upset because of the insane menu navigation, and talking with multiple foreigners (who also tried selling them products) before getting to us.I was failing because I wasn’t meeting the company’s goals. Sales weren’t the problem; customers are willing to buy once you fix their problems and establish trust. But to do such a thing requires time, which is where I was failing. I wasn’t taking enough calls in a day. Despite having stacks of customer compliment letters, I left my position to avoid facing termination.I’m not sure if high-level execs don’t have a clue, or if they choose to ignore it. Either way, it will eventually backfire regardless of the size of the corporation. The consumer will eventually find a way to get what they want. (Just look at all the daily newspaper deliveries being traded in for Twitter accounts)My new job solidifies sales (and customer retention) by embracing good customer service. It’s a 180-degree turn, and a good one.

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