When Did “Customer Service” Become an Oxymoron?

By: Jeanne Reynolds

I’m trapped in my own home.

I’m a prisoner of our internet provider. “Provider” is a bit of a misnomer, however, because no service is being provided, and hasn’t for a month or so. For the second time in as many weeks, I’ve waited four hours for a technician who never arrived. (Now, almost three hours past the promised appointment window, he’s allegedly on his way. I’ll let you know how that works out.)

Numerous calls, emails and online chats with the customer service department have only increased our frustration. I’m talking service reps for whom English is obviously a skill still in the works and who are apparently reading from a script (“How to Deal with Irate Customers 101,” perhaps), conflicting information and even “alternate facts” (Them: “Our records show the work was completed and technician signed the paperwork.” Us: “That’s funny because I sat here for four hours and no one came.”). I’d like to rip the whole thing out and set it afire on the company’s front doorstep — except there is no other provider where we live. So we grumble and gnash our teeth and battle on.

But why should we have to do that? Why is it so hard to get good customer service these days?

And it’s not just these guys. We all have horror stories of clothes returned from the dry cleaners with missing buttons (or missing completely), hopelessly confusing cable bills, surly store clerks and contractors who won’t return calls. I don’t think it’s asking too much for a company to do what it says it’ll do, when it says it’ll do it, or call and explain what’s going on. Give me a smile and a “thanks” and I’m over the moon. It’s why I shop at Publix and Lands End, and would rather pay more at Chick-fil-A than patronize the McCompetition.

And don’t get me started on companies that only seem to value new customers. Case in point: I’ve paid my newspaper subscription bill on time without fail for the past 20 years. My loyalty is now being rewarded by refusing me the deep discount offered to new subscribers. Is it any wonder fewer people are subscribing to the paper these days?

I really think the problem starts as the top. If excellent service isn’t a priority for a company, part of its culture and emphasized to every employee repeatedly, it’s not going to happen. If a company has a monopoly, like my internet company, it might get away with haphazard service for a while. But it’s a pretty risky business strategy in the era of Twitter and Facebook. Not to mention eager entrepreneurs looking for an edge.

It’s not my style to take to social media to vent. I’d much rather talk to a human being and try to resolve the problem. But hey, I’m getting desperate here. If the internet company isn’t listening to me, at least I can make sure plenty of other people know about it with a few clicks … that is, assuming I ever get internet service.

Service With a Smile

By: Lara Winburn

I am a sucker for good customer service. I once wrote a note to a waitress at a Pizza Hut because her service was so stellar. I have been a waitress and have owned a retail shop; in my mind, service is what separates a good place from a great place. My roommate and I once called the customer service number at Sonic to rave about the service we received…it got us a coupon for a free burger, I do believe – more great service.

Recently my three year old broke her arm. She is fine but it has hindered her social calendar quite a bit. A few weeks before the break, I had scheduled some time at The Little Gym. We had a gift certificate that was going to expire (typical) and I thought both Great customer servicekids would like it and it would be a nap-making kind of activity. Well, I have been to The Little Gym (N. Beltline Blvd) one time for a birthday party. They do not know me or my cute kiddos, but due to arm break I had to cancel our classes there. (It just seemed like the heavy cast might make a balance beam more of a challenge.)

You see that picture of that Get Well Card? That is what they sent my daughter. Just because I told them the reason I was cancelling and that we would try again when all of our appendages were in working order. The inside is signed by who I assume are the sweet teachers that spend their Saturdays teaching kids there. Is that service or what? A little human touch goes a long way. I am now a huge fan of Little Gym.

I am not much of a shopper, because of time and money restraints blah blah blah. But a few weeks ago I ordered shoes from Zappos.com. I feel certain you may have heard of this little company. My mom may be single handedly keeping them in business. Anyway, I ordered some shoes that magically appeared on my door in two days. I tried on the shoes and they did not fit quite right. (One more blessing of pregnancy…new shoe size.) As I studied the shoes I noticed they looked previously worn. Or, at best, tried on by an elephant kicking a soccer ball. So, I decided to call customer service. Not because I was mad, I just did not want to send the shoes back and they think my pet elephant had been kicking a soccer ball with them, or that I wore them out on the town and sent them back. I explained to the lovely sales representative (after listening to the Zappos “joke of the day”) that the shoes did not fit properly. I also wanted to tell them for the record if they looked worn it was not by me. I even said “I am not mad about this and this is not why I am returning them I just thought someone should know and mark it in my shoe chart. The sales associate apologized for the inconvenience and we disconnected. Thirty minutes later, I got a $25 gift certificate because of the inconvenience. Yep, the total hassle dialing 10 numbers just to cover my own tail before I mailed back (on Zappos’ dime) shoes that magically appeared on my doorstep a day before. Total hassle?? If this is someone’s idea of a real inconvenience, let’s talk.

When humans treat humans like humans it really just warms my heart. I am sure we all have lots of examples of bad service, disappointing products, and total retail disrespect – but sometimes there is a little service with a smile. And for that I am thankful. (It doesn’t take much.)

**Disclaimer: For the record, I LOVE LOCAL SMALL BUSINESSES and do not buy everything online. These just happened to be my two examples as of late.**

The Customer is Always Right, Right?

By: Roshanda Pratt

I am a stickler for good customer service, just ask my husband.  I have been known to call a manager in front of a rude employee on more than one occasion.  I have no problem doing it because at one time, I was on the other side of the counter.  During my years of working in fast food and retail I was taught to give the customer “service with a smile” and “the customer is always right.”  But in my recent experiences, I have found out this is not happening today, and that is very wrong.

Recently, the American Consumer Satisfaction Index found customers do not love service at McDonald’s.  According to the survey, the fast food giant received the lowest customer satisfaction ranking of any full-service or fast-food chain on the survey.  Honestly, I was not surprised.  I don’t go to McDonald’s for great customer service.  In my opinion they stopped doing that long ago.  Remember those famous “Welcome to McDonald’s, can I help you?” commercials in the 80’s featuring a young guy named Calvin whom dreamed of owning a McDonald’s?  He has now been replaced with a rude, oftentimes nonchalant, ill-mannered employee who treats me as if I am wasting his or her time.

What happened? This is my observation.  In an effort to cut corners more and more, fast food chains are hiring people who just want a check.  People who do not have a servant’s heart, an attitude of service; at the core people are selfish.  I never understood people who would work in a field like customer service, but yet, do not like people. Another part of the problem I see is a lack of manners.  Manners are taught, and they should be learned as a child. I am amazed how adults do not know how to say “Thank You,” “Please,” or “You’re Welcome.”  These common courtesies have become a curse word in our society.  How is that? I could imagine Emily Post rolling over in her grave!

So how do we solve this moral dilemma?  We have to hold people accountable and that means having a standard.  I had friend who had a father who was a military sergeant as it pertained to customer service.  He would take the family to a restaurant, put a stack of one dollar bills on the table and inform the waitress/waiter that was their tip.  He went on to say if they made an error or provided bad service, he would take a dollar away.  Whatever was left at the end of the meal was the tip.  That may seem extreme, but it held the waiter and waitress accountable.  I understand some customers can act like a real baboon. I get it.  But it still does not excuse you from doing the job you agreed to be hired to do.

Let’s talk about accountability a little further.  As a company, it should not just be about the bottom line. It should also be about the steps you take to get there.  For example, I have never had a bad experience at Chick-Fil-A.  The people working there take pride in their restaurant and providing outstanding service.  The company invests in its employees and has a certain standard of people who they pick to be part of their team.  I think it’s no wonder, on any given lunch hour, you can find the restaurant packed to the full.  Employees have to feel vested, buy in to what they are selling.  If not, you will have people disgruntled about their job and just waiting until payday.

Who’s to blame?  Both the company’s and the people hired.  I blame the company for not having a higher standard, a code of ethics and making sure employees adhere to it.  I blame the companies for creating an environment where they just seek “bodies” to hand out food without making a genuine investment to build people.  I find people are more willing to work hard and provide the best when they feel like they have been invested into and appreciated.  I also blame employees who want to take the easy way out, who complain and whine when they have a job to do, who often opt to do the bare minimum.

I decided long ago to hold employees accountable.  I understand if you are having a bad day.  We all have had one of those, but when you break my customer “service” rules, then I decide you DO NOT want my money and I will shop elsewhere.  After all, I think you are trying to gain me as a repeat customer?  Give me a reason to come back!

My Pet Peeves:

  • Not acknowledging my presence when I am clearly standing in front of you.
  • Repeatedly asking me even when I made it clear I do not need any help.
  • Treating me like a “girlfriend” and not a customer.  (Side note: True story here, I was actually in a sandwich shop and the young lady making my sandwich was cussing and speaking to me as if we knew each other a long time.  Needless to say, I did not return.)
  • Using profane language in front of my children.
  • Rude behavior of any sort.
  • Making a mistake on your end, but not being willing to correct it.
  • Not giving me the necessities… such as napkins, straws and spoon.
  • And charging for things like sauce for my nuggets, ketchup, tomatoes, pickles, cheese…etc.

Have you ever had horrible customer service and how did you handle it?  What do you think is the cause for a decline in the customer always being right?  Or maybe if I left your pet peeve off my list, please post below.

Have a great day!

Ro