Writer. Thinker. Strategist. Creative Tight Rope Walker.

No, I Did Not Ask for Attitude with My Customer Service Order

In bordering on turning my blog into a place to vent, I’m going to use some restraint this week when discussing the main topic on my mind — customer service. And, I write this from the perspective of being a self-employed person whose livelihood is in the hands of clients and prospects and as being the other half to another self-employed person who recognizes the connection between service and keeping one’s clients.

The Ugly Side of Service

In the past week, I’ve had four distinct situations that can be linked together by a sole common denominator: the customer service I received was atrocious (at best). In fact, the service was so obnoxious that I felt like I should hang my head in shame because I even thought I would ever count as a customer. Here are my  favorite verbal tidbits from such experiences (and I’m quoting the customer service people here):

  • Long Beach BMW dealership: “This is all I can offer or this has all been for nothing.” [Really, so you don’t need to make an effort to get a sale anymore?]
  • Southern California Edison: “No, there is no possible way we can help you.” [In response for me asking for a letter to verify Dave’s name had been added to account. I was told we would have to wait four weeks until our next paperless bill. Wow, looks like it’s my fault for calling between billing cycles].
  • Department of Environmental Health: “What are you trying to do? Do you expect me to have the answer?” [This was said right after my opening line where I was asking for the fax number of a person I identified in order to send permits. That is exactly what I said and that was their answer — did they even hear the quite specific information that left my mouth right after they said hello because I thought I was pretty clear?]
Granted, one is a government agency and one is a utility company, but still. Plus, the other one is a luxury car dealer [who really needs to get schooled in the art of customer service by Valencia BMW who rocks!]. Makes me wonder what has happened to the idea that a customer should be treated with respect if respect is given to the company. There are so many experiences that we all have had where we are sorry we even dared to bother someone who works in a shop or a restaurant whose sole aim is to service customers.
What Service Should Mean
When I approach my clients and prospective clients, I try to act out what I feel would be excellent customer service:
  • Don’t take the fact that your day is going from bad to worse out on the person on the other end of the phone, email, or counter.
  • Don’t make the customer feel like they are somehow at fault. Even if they are, keep it to yourself.
  • Say ‘yes’ as much as possible [unless what is being asked is not in the realm of reality]. If I can shuffle work to accommodate a new client I will, but I will also gently let them know that it is something special I’m doing and can try to do it wherever possible [so they don’t take advantage of it].
  • Be patient and listen with your mouth shut and ears open.
  • Find solutions rather than simply create more problems. While it is easy to just discount a person’s request or their issue with the idea ‘that it’s not my problem,’ it’s better to offer alternatives or ideas that could help. This will keep them coming back for more.
  • Smile when you talk on the phone. People can feel that on the other end of the line.
  • Thank your clients for their business and prospective customers for considering you. Appreciation goes a long way.
Dealing with Customer Service Challenges
I remained calm with my ‘special’ customer service experiences mentioned above because I realize that many people are stuck in a place where it is not their actual business [and they certainly don’t act like owners] like I am with my customers not to mention these reps might have  dealt with a lot of obnoxious people. Yet, there has got to be a place where these businesses take the time to train their staff to take customers as individuals, not enemies, so they can build business over time.
While I can’t pick a different electricity provider or go to a different agency to fax pool permits, I can choose a different car dealer and even some other type of car [which is in fact what will most likely will happen]. Maybe they don’t care that I have a bad taste in my mouth, but I did mention the names of all three companies here because it’s on my blog and it’s available for others to see just how bad they are to their customers and potential customers.  That’s the beautiful reality of social media — you can lose me as your customer and so many more customers when you behave badly.

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