Customer Service? How About “Customer DIS-Service”?

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I have had some really interesting customer service interactions as of late. Really, what they were would better be likened to “Customer DIS-Service”. My biggest fear that this kind of incident when out in the marketplace is going to become the norm seems to be in the process of becoming real. If it declines any more, I am not sure what is going to become of us.

The first incident involved my name. The name given to me at birth, and that I will take with me to the grave. I can’t recall who said it, but the sound of a person’s own name is the most beautiful sound they ever hear. So to have it butchered is quite painful. Granted my name is difficult, but with a little more attention to detail, most people get it right. There are a few out there that no matter how many times I correct them, they simply cannot make their mouths form the correct sounds, I guess. My dealings with them, needless to say, are a little more “arm’s length” as it is apparent that they cannot be bothered with this little detail. But I digress.

The incident was a lazy salesperson at a golf store. When he went to put down my name for a salesperson to follow up on, he made a mistake as I was spelling it for him, crossed it out, and began to write again, making yet another mistake. He said, “How about we just call you ‘Ann’?” I said, “No, because that is NOT my name.” I am not about to be sorry that my name caused him some discomfort in his efforts. Ultimately, his laziness at his attempts to get something to the customer’s satisfaction caused me negative feelings about the store in general. Pay attention when getting someone’s name!

The second incident was also oddly at a golf store. Two employees there were vying for the opportunity to assist my husband and me, and it was getting ugly. It felt more like a territorial dog peeing contest as to which one was going to give the correct advice. I can only guess that commission-based salaries or bonuses were in play here. One would leave for a few minutes and the other would swoop in to counter previous advice, and back and forth. It was getting almost comical were I not feeling more like a fire hydrant instead of a customer. Again, another lost sale.

The last incident involved a restaurant. We were seated, and a friendly waiter appeared, told us he would be right back, and then disappeared for 20 minutes. Finally we contacted the hostess, who interestingly looked toward the parking lot instead of back toward the kitchen when we told her our waiter was missing. I could only conclude this wasn’t his first vanishing act. Another came and took good care of us, but then we were subject to the awkward situation where the previous employee was being scolded by the manager out on the floor in front of diners.To make things even more awkward, this first waiter came over later to apologize and mention he was giving his two-week notice right then and there. It felt like we were in the middle of a family squabble rather than one of Denver’s finer dining establishments. Needless to say, I am going to conclude that with this kind of drama on the floor, and another successful tavern already drawing customers a few doors down, this restaurant may be headed for its demise. And of course the second waiter got the fat tip for jumping in.

Service-people are human, I get that. but leaving personal dramas or lack of attention to detail at home is always one’s best bet. Customer service should not be “the new luxury” as someone once told me. A business that is going to succeed will live by the motto “Customer is King”, and train its employees that there is a degree of professionalism they are expected to maintain at all times. A customer who has such an awkward experience, as I have given three examples of above, isn’t likely to return. And you customers need to do your part and let management know when these kinds of things happen so the business can make improvements.

Once we start stating and modeling the kinds of behaviors we expect, the more likely we are to get them.

Is it me, or is product quality really falling?

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Strangely, I am noticing more and more that the quality of products whether imported or domestic, is falling. Now, I am old enough to know that part of this is due to the fact that I AM now old enough to notice things not being up to par. It is a trait of being younger that one just accepts inferior quality. As an older, more seasoned consumer, those precious dollars I bust my heiny for had better be purchasing quality.

On two recent occasions, I have had to contact fairly well-known companies to tell them, “Hey, one of your products is not doing what it should be doing.” On both occasions, the product was replaced. Major customer service salute to Columbia, the outdoor clothing company, for replacing a defective pair of boots I had help on to for 12 years! The second company was Silpada, the network marketing jewelry company. A chain I had purchased seemed to be showing unusual wear for something that was supposed to be Tiffany-grade silver, so they are replacing that, too.

Needless to say, this kind of customer service gets a major salute from me, but should these products be showing lesser quality like that in the first place? Now, I know some of you (that is is anyone is actually reading this – after all most blogs are an exercise in vanity) are crying “Foul! Those boots were 12 years old!” Yes, it’s true, but when I noticed the cracking, it was clear to me and the company that this was not your normal 12-year-deterioration. Is it our mass-production world leading to inferior quality? Our imports from countries with lower standards than America has?

Whatever it is, I choose to look on my incidents as not a practice of complaining to get what I want, but as a reach-out to the company in question to seriously assist them in making their products better. I knew the Columbia thing was a long-shot, and I really did not expect anything from them in return. I simply assumed they may want to know their product was “behaving badly.” They went above and beyond to remedy the situation, and in the snowy climes of Colorado, I am happy to have a new, functional pair of snowboots. In the process, they have made a Columbia customer for life, which is always far more productive and profitable than trying to land a new consumer.

As for Silpada, I knew they backed everything they make with a guarantee. When I noticed what would appear to be silver-plated product to most consumers, I needed to let them know this was not acceptable, if indeed that was what it was. They were quick to decide a replacement was in order, and for that I am thankful. Especially when the item was not inexpensive.

The thing is companies cannot make things better if they do not know there is a problem in the first place. In our disposable society, most consumers figure they ought to just throw said item out and purchase a new one. However, this is a Catch 22; the company cannot improve its products until someone informs them of the defect, and products will continue to be defective on occasion if the company does not know to fix it.

It most circles, this is known as “feedback”, and it is this kind of feedback that will improve things for everyone. Do yourself and a company the favor of giving feedback on products so we can enjoy more and throw out less. Teach your kids to look for quality. And by all means, let yourself begin to view what was formerly called a complaint now be titled “feedback” in your mind. The world will be a better place for your efforts. And you companies who continue to view this kind of feedback as a favor, I salute you.ImageGet the book!

Calling for a Split on Mother’s Day

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No, I’m not talking about bowling. I’m talking about the fairness of Mother’s Day. If you’re the last mom in line, you had better forget it. Brunch in bed if you are lucky, a piece of jewelry and some flowers, perhaps, but then the rest of the day is spent catering to the other mothers in your life. Your mom, his mom, his step-mom, Aunts, siblings who are moms… Good grief. A trip to the card store recently was enough to make my head spin.

Why can’t we come up with some different ideas for Mother’s Day that would honor all moms equally? Perhaps a First/Second/Third Generation Mother’s Day, a Step-Mother’s Day, a My Sister is a Great Mother Mother’s Day… In this fashion no mother is left feeling second best.

Better still was an idea I had a few years back equalizing Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in that it would be expected that the mothers would be gone all day. Come on – you know it is expected that fathers get the entire day off to play golf or something. Truly Mother’s Day should be called “Mother’s Hour” as we all know we get about an hour or two to pound a mimosa over brunch, then it’s back to the reality of dishes, laundry, and house-hold drudgery.

There are a few non-designated Sundays left on the calendar, so why not start designating them for all the versions of motherhood Hallmark acknowledges? It would certainly be a welcomed break for this mom to not have to fret about which mom is being left out. The truth is the mom who gets forgotten most often is me.

So Hallmark and 1-800-FLOWERS, you should be thanking THIS mom; you can increase your sales five-fold if you play your marketing cards a little better!

Rated “V” for “Vile” – The Disgusting Findings in Women’s Restrooms

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A toilet paper roll

A toilet paper roll (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ImageYes, I saw you, lady, leave the restroom without washing your hands. Vile. I guess I should not be surprised as it has been established that 58% of women do not wash their hands, compared to 75% of men not washing. And middle school aged boys? Try only 8% of them even using soap! No wonder kids are sick all the time.

But I am here today to talk specifically about the Ladies’ Room. If you are eating, I suggest you stop. What has been thought of as a haven of cleanliness is FAR from it. What finally put me over the edge was using the facilities in a well known chain restaurant and seeing what I could only guess was excrement on the wall and door. Are you kidding me?? What kind of subhuman would actually do something like this and derive pleasure from grossing out others??

And believe me, it gets worse. Consider yourself warned; I am going to bring it to light here as I know women are capable of better behavior than what I am about to reveal. Really, if you are eating, you are going to want to stop NOW.

Blood. Yes, blood on the floor that some slob couldn’t wipe up in the name of discretion. Mucus wiped on the walls as if there isn’t a roll of toilet paper RIGHT THERE. I can think of three letters that represent “disbelief” on social media that would be perfectly appropriate right here, but I shall refrain from using them.

It goes on. Hair in the sinks. Makeup spilled on the counter. Urine all over the toilet seats from the “hoverers”. You were warned in the title that this was vile, vile stuff. I only wish all this was exaggeration.

Come on! We can do better, women! If you are going to make a mess, clean up after yourself! It is not rocket science, it is not that hard, and I am 100% certain most of you have uttered those very words to your offspring. And wipe that notion out of your mind that “they pay people to clean up in here.” Aren’t YOU appreciative when your kids don’t purposefully leave a disgusting mess for you to clean up?

I am begging you women to restore the luster to the myth of the pristine female restroom. Prove to me, and every other woman that has suffered the indignation of possibly viewing the same things I have seen, that we are indeed “the fairer sex”.