Thursday, June 29, 2006

Customer Service
Lately it seems I've had lots of interaction with Customer Service situations. I've made some observations.

The other day I walked into CompUSA and I barely set foot inside the store when a group of SIX employees immediately turned toward the door, and upon seeing me, they ALL had to greet me with an over-enthusiastic hello. Wouldn't it be good enough if just one of you said hello? Three of them then asked me if I needed help with anything. I said no and walked to the back of the store. Whatever I was there for was not in the back of the store, but I just wanted to get away from the gang of attention that had bombarded me at the door.

Not 3 minutes later, another employee walks over to me and asks if I need any help. I said no, again. Then right after I paid for my purchase and turned to go out the door, TWO MORE employees who were sitting in an office, away from the door, having a conversation, STOPPED their conversation to tell me to have a nice day.

I'm a little weird about employees offering help in a store. If I need it, I will ask. Obviously you work there. There is no need to hunt me down and try to help me. I will come find you. And I probably won't need attention from all 13 of you at once.

For Father's Day, I went to church with my parents at their church. I arrived a few minutes earlier than I intended, but I was okay with this because as a Visitor I get to park in the Visitor parking spaces, and I would get prime pick of the spots closest to the door (for my escape later). BUT, I couldn't get to the very first space because two men were standing in the middle of the row and they didn't move. So, rather than run them over (I was at church, after all), I pulled into another spot and got out of my car.

That's when I discovered the purpose of these two men. No sooner had I shut my car door behind me, Parking Lot Greeter #1 was at my car, handing me a large 4-color glossy brochure about the church, and giving me detailed instructions on where to find a group of ladies at the Information booth who would then help me to anything I needed inside the church. Seriously, it was an Attack Greeting. The church has moved greeting from inside the actual building and they are now proactively grabbing people in the parking lot before we have a chance to drive away again.

Fortunately I saw my parents drive up before he could sign me up as a lifetime member during my first 30 seconds in the parking lot, so I told him I saw who I was meeting, thanks very much, and I headed inside. Actually, I hid behind a cement pylon to watch for my parents to get to the door, so that I wouldn't be greeted by anyone else. I held on to the brochure. I figured if I kept one in my hand the whole time I was there, no one would try to give me another one. They would all see that I had been sufficiently greeted.

More often than not, it seems like Customer Service is just really bad. I understand it's not a fun job, and it probably isn't all that rewarding to answer calls from unhappy people all the livelong day. But it's not our fault. And obviously if we could help ourselves, we would love more than anything not to have to spend time with you on the phone in an unpleasant conversation.

The other day I finally decided to call about my cable internet service. It goes in and out all day, everyday. But I've put off calling about it because that means I have to make time for the Customer Service people to come to my house between 8am and Never to see what's going on.

But, I called. And the guy I got on the phone would not stop talking long enough for me to describe the problem, or ask a question, or for me to answer any of his questions. I would get one word in and he would go off on a tangent about something computery that I don't care about. Then he started scheduling a time for the technician to come to my house without even asking me when a good time would be. Then, I told him when I was available and he said he couldn't schedule that far ahead because the calendar only goes ahead two weeks, so he would have to put me on the schedule for a time we both know I am not available, and then I would have to call back in a few days to reschedule and hope that their calendar could look that far ahead.

Sometimes I think they just make this stuff up because I hear a different story every time.

I never have a good experience with SBC (now AT&T). I had to call this week to clear up some stuff for my church's phone line. I was dreading it. It took two of my lunch hours. The first time I called I was passed around to 4 different people, because even though they send you ONE bill with internet and phone charges on it, to clear the entire bill you have to talk to separate departments: internet, then phone. I had to explain the situation at least 4 times. The last time they put me on hold for so long, I just had to hang up so I could go back to work.

And you when you are on hold, you literally have no control. They could leave you there forever. You can't even push a button or start talking and say, "Hey, I have to go, so are we making any progress? Are you coming back?" You can't even keep the progress you've made after being on the phone for an hour. If you have to go, or hang up, you have to call back and start completely over.


And don't think that putting me on hold keeps me from talking to you. I talk while I'm on hold. I ask you where you've gone. I ask you what you are doing. I even ask you out sometimes. If they happen to be recording me on hold, I imagine they are probably leaving me there longer because they are getting a kick out of how mad I am getting while I'm on hold.

All that is to say, I do have one favorite example of good Customer Service. Every time I go into a Quik Trip gas station store, I walk out feeling like they know how to treat customers. One person will greet you when you come in, but they are not hovering around waiting to do something for you after they see you've entered the store. They are fast when they ring up your purchase. They don't hassle you or try to sell you more stuff than you want while you are in the store.

And the best part is this: When you leave, they say "See you next time." Every time. That is what they say. And you know what? I find that really pleasant, calming, and it makes me want to come back again.

Why? Because they didn't ask me to come back. They didn't pressure me to return, or make some false cheesy gimmicky statement. And what they said is absolutely true. The next time I am there, they will see me.

And yes, Quik Trip. I will see you next time.


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