Friday, June 12, 2009

Customer Service

One of my biggest pet peeves is poor customer service. Especially since most of the jobs I have had over the years have emphasized how important it is to give the customer/guest/member/fill-in-the-blank a good experience, I am always noticing the big or little things companies do to pass or fail in this category. In fact, I am sometimes frustrated that I can't personally give people better customer service because of unreasonable rules that I have to follow. In some cases they are necessary, but in others they are just poor customer service. I try to do all I can to help a customer, but in some cases my hands are tied. But, I always TRY and WANT to help... which is the key. Unfortunately, there are many people in the world who are completely clueless about this. One example of this was when Michael and I were having dinner at Chili's. We had a problem with our meal and we asked our waitress if she could do anything to make it right for us, to which she responded, "what's in it for me?" WHAT! Especially in this case, isn't it obvious? So Mike said, "your tip," duh.... and then she acted all offended and was like, "well, I don't play games with my tips." Well, lady, if you don't want to play games with your tips, don't ask customers what's in it for you for helping them! There are many other stories like this I could tell, but for today there is only one. Michael and I had a bad experience with a place we previously were fans of... in fact largely because of what we considered their good customer service. They have very fair return policies, etc.... However, today they really un"exceeded" my expectations, and I told them up front that I was going to prove true the saying that for every customer who has a bad experience, they tell 10 other people, so here is the e-mail that I submitted on their website:
"My husband and I had an absolute nightmare experience with the Lehi and Sandy Utah warehouses. The managers were completely incompetent at dealing with customers and providing the kind of service we would expect from a respected chain such as Costco. We have been looking for laminate flooring for our home at several different locations. We decided to go for a Costco brand due to a good deal we found at the Orem store, however the Orem store was five boxes short of the square feet we needed to cover for our new home (the style is being discontinued). Luckily, we were told that the Lehi warehouse had 19 more boxes. We decided to purchase one box in the Orem store and then get the full 19 from Lehi (this would leave someone with a semi-decent amount of flooring rather than taking half from each). However, once we got to Lehi we saw that the floors were being sold for $20 more per box. This was out of our price range, so we asked an employee if they could match the price from the other location. They said they absolutely could not and they have nothing to do with the other warehouse. They also told us that on another occasion some other costumers had come from Bountiful (a very inconvenient drive as well) and they had turned them down for a similar request. We asked if they could at least met us halfway on the price for the 4 boxes we needed, and they refused. We told them it would really mean a lot to make us satisfied customers, to which the manager responded, "I don't care if you are unsatisfied, we just need to make money." I could NOT believe that an employee, and even worse the manager, told me to my face that he DID NOT even care about how I felt or how much I had been mistreated as a customer. It absolutely disgusts me that Costco has such policies as ignoring the customers’ perceptions. Well, they may have saved $40 dollars more profit that night, but they lost thousands of dollars in a lifetime of memberships and other purchases that we will not be making. We couldn't believe that we had been treated this way, and we thought surely it must just be that one location. So, we tried going to Sandy where they had 12 more boxes. Again, we got a similar brush-off. This kind of greed and arrogance makes me sick. I see an urgent need for customer service training for your management and some kind of accountability for the dismissive and offensive way your general managers are allowed to deal with customers. They say for every bad experience a customer has, they tell ten people. I intend to inform at least this many of my friends and family about this experience and hopefully many more so they can be aware that these stores do not have their interests in mind and are only trying to make every penny off of them that they can. That is no way to run a business in the long term."

Am I crazy? I know we live in a capitalist society and, at heart, the purpose of most every business is of course to make profit. Yet, as I pointed out in my e-mail, in the long run, treating the customers well is how you make a profit. At the Cougareat we had to watch this cheesy movie called "give 'em the pickle" or something to that effect. It was about this guy who owned a restaurant and he got a letter from a lady saying she was very upset when she asked for a pickle and the waiter said it would be an extra charge, whereas before it had been free. She said she didn't want to visit the place anymore if that was how it was run. Obviously, the cost of a pickle is not very much in the big scheme for things for that business. However, for that customer, it really meant a lot to get that pickle. So, it changed his life, and now he makes customer service videos. Maybe some of what I said was an exaggeration, and I may shop at Costco again just because they do have good bargains. However, where I used to enjoy it, it will now pain me. Where I once saw Costco as my friend, it has now become my enemy, and I hate to fraternize with my enemies.

Well, people of America and abroad, even if you think I'm nuts and making a big deal out of nothing, just remember that what goes around comes around and try to make life better for the people you have to deal with instead of miserable. [Unless of course they treat you bad first and then you can go after them with everything you've got, which in my case isn't much besides my blistering rhetoric :)] This now concludes my rant, thanks for tuning in if you did!