Monday, April 13, 2009

Between 9 to 5 - Part 2

In the end, we told Sears that they needed to be here and done by 5:00 as we had another commitment.  They said that would work out.   Yet two days later when my wife called as the afternoon was growing late (somewhere around 3:15), they told her that the technician would be there at 3:43.  While this level of precision seemed a little odd in light of the "we will be there on Tuesday", the story does not end there.  Not 15 minutes later, the technician called saying he had one more stop and would get to our house around 5:30.  

Interesting how one simple process can create some many levels of precision?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Empowering Customer Service to save a customer

A recent experience got me thinking about, despite all the talk on the subject, how truly empowered customer service is to solve customer problems.

Back in early December 2008, I order furniture from an on-line retailer. The order was estimated for delivery in 8-10 weeks, putting delivery some where in the early February time frame. Without going into all the details, because there were so many failings in this process, let me focus on the retailer's CS function after delivery.

At the 12th week, my credit card was charged, so I assumed, per the purchase agreement, that the order was shipped. Late, but, I assumed it was on the way. I heard nothing. Another week. In week 14, I began calling and getting the run around and excuses as to the status of the order.

Jump ahead to week 17. The order finally arrives. The product was poorly constructed relative to the price point. And, the order was incomplete. Two days later, I got an email from the retailer's customer service "hoping that my experience was a good one". I replied that I was unsatisfied on all levels. At this point, even before this point, I would have expected some sort of remediation or offer from the company for my troubles. Nothing.

So, after I expressed my dissatisfaction in a return email, the head of customer service apparently followed up internally to understand the whole story. However, all I got back as a remediation was an historical recount of the experience, complete with a ting of finger pointing towards the manufacturer. This is how the email concluded from the retailer's head of customer service.

"...I just wanted to take this time , and let you know that your feedback is very important in helping us know when something is not right so we can get the issues resolved as fast as possible for our customer. Thanks again for the feedback it was very important to our company to hear this from our customers."

So that's it? Thanks for the feedback? Is that all that this customer service head is empowered to do? Thank me for my feedback? Or, does he really think this is sufficient to wipe away 18 weeks of a poor experience? This email exchange did nothing to satisfy me or overcome my negative experience. This CS head should be empowered to make economic, commercial or monetary decision that would, should such a situation occur in the future, actually show a desire to save a customer relationship. I don't know what it would have taken to rectify this experience in my mind. But, I know this was not it. While there are role model companies that understand the need for real economic empowerment at the front lines, all too often, this is as far as customer services is allowed to go. Apologies are free. And this company will realize, you get what you pay for.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Humpty Dumpty & Wood Glue

At lunch today, I returned to my chair to have it make a not-so-entertaining noise.  It was something of a goan and crunch.  As I was lamenting my doctors last comment "man you must eat a lot" I looked down to see most of one leg detached.  It was a small, hole-in-the-wall kind of place with the lunch crowd mostly gone and little service to be seen.  

I set the chair aside to make sure it would be seen.  After a couple of minutes the owner walks out and puts the chair back in the place of the chair I had taken from another table.  I explained the fact that the chair almost crumpled under me.  To which he nodded and said "nothing that a little wood glue won't fix" and left the chair there for the next unsuspecting customer.

While he was probably correct, I was a little shocked to think that his typical customer was probably an elderly lady (it is just a sandwich/coffee shop) who might not be so quick to fix with wood glue.  

Perhaps she gets to own the place?  Why not either fix it on the spot or just put it in the back to fix later?  Why risk a customer getting hurt? Even a medical bill in these days is worth a lot of sandwiches.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Between 9 and 5

"I will be at your office somewhere between 9 and 5 next Tuesday."  

What kind of business can get away with this type of scheduling as a business model?  In this day and age with all types of resource planning and scheduling software, how can this still be acceptable?

We just received a call that our washing machine is under recall and they will pick up and replace the unit between 9 and 5 and that we need to be there the whole time.  I am willing to be that they will show during the 10 minutes my wife is picking up the kids.

Parker's Maple Syrup

Somewhere hidden in a corner of the Parker's Maple Barn gift shop (which is hidden in Southern New Hamshire) is a sign that says it all..."If the customer wants vanilla, give them vanilla."  While perhaps a mere wall decoration, it says a lot about this place.  

What was at first a journey to get a thing of fresh maple syrup, and a little sight-seeing experience quickly turned into one of the better experiences of this year.  I had never been to Parker's but had been to a couple of other maple syrup destinations.  I had not heard anything about Parker's (we were going with some friends), nor was I expecting anything other than a boon-doggle for expensive syrup.  

All I will say, is find a nice spring day.  Make your way to Parker's Maple Barn (address below) with a plan to arrive in the mid-morning.  When you park, put your name in with the restaurant.  Grab a maple donut and a little hot chocolate on your way up to the manufacturing barn, wait in line for a tour.  Listen, ask questions, and enjoy.  

Oh, and the breakfast is worth the ride as well.

Address:1316 Brookline Road
Mason, NH 03048
Phone:(603) 878-2308 or (800) 832-2308
Fax:(603) 878-1323

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The 411 on Directory Assistance

I had been a long time Cingular subscriber for my cell phone service at the time of the acquisition by AT&T. Having been around many acquisitions, I expected to feel some merger pains as a customer. This, however, was one of those funny bone pains that made me laugh through my grimace.

On my cell, I called directory assistance, which I learned later through an unrelated business encounter is outsourced to a third party company I believe called KGB - a contact center outsourcer. Through the automated IVR, I requested the number for Joseph A. Bank, a men's clothing store. The IVR didn't recognize my request, so I was transfered to an agent.

The agent asked for the business name again. I repeated. Because the company name is spelled "Jos A. Bank", the agent had to ask for the name several more times....the handle time clock was ticking.

She told me she had one listing, nowhere near the town where I had requested; in a different state, for that matter. Meanwhile, I knew there was a store in the location I had requested.

I asked her if there were more listings. She said yes and gave me another location. Again, not the one I needed. I asked "is that all fo them?". She proclaimed, "Oh no. I have a whole list here but I'm only allowed to give you two listings." Huh?

As perplexed as I was, having knowledge of call center customer service operations, I could only imagin how the average joe would react to this comment. Either the agent was on the phone too long and threatening to surpass the call handle time target. Or, as an outsourcer, perhaps they get paid by Cingular per call. So, the policy is to offer limited information. Any further requests need to be made via a newly placed call.