Just When You Think You’ve Heard Everything…

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to blog about poor customer service. After all, it’s everywhere. But here’s one that I couldn’t resist passing along.

First, the setup. My wife works for a service organization. While they do sell some products, the products are there to support the service which is offered to consumers. The company works out of hundreds of storefronts across the country. Recently they introduced a computerized record system with PCs and modems in all their locations. All employees were required to learn the system. Many of them, like my wife, are anything but computer geeks.

In order to complete the day’s business, the day’s transactions must be transmitted to the home office via the computer. The business day for most of the remote locations ends around 7:00 PM.

Monday evening around 7:30 I got a panicky phone call from my lovely and talented better half. The computer was displaying an error message and the modem wasn’t working. A call to the company’s “help desk” resulted in a recorded message advising her to “leave a message and we’ll get back to you.”

Here’s the thing. There are two women sitting in an otherwise empty storefront, on their own time, unable to leave until they got the computer working and the “help desk” was offering no help. Fortunately I know a little bit about this stuff and I was able to walk them through a fix.

What’s the lesson here? Most of us provide some kind of service and often that service is time-sensitive. Are we there when the customer needs us? If we aren’t, do we offer them an alternative?

I recently ended a long-term relationship with the company who serviced my garage doors when my car was stranded inside the garage and they had taken off for a Christmas vacation. My new garage door guy, found the old-fashioned way, from the Yellow Pages, was there within hours on Christmas Eve. (I told you, my wife’s not big on computers.)  My problem may not have been a big deal to my former company, but when you have to transport four adults, food, and gifts on Christmas day and your only accessible vehicle is a two-seat convertible, it’s a very big deal.

As service providers, it’s important that we see that our service is available when our customers need it. You may not want to work twenty-four hours a day. Who does? But an answering machine with an emergency number might not be a bad idea. Where after-hours service may be required, can you have someone on call? It’s entirely possible that the “emergency” can be solved over the phone, like my wife’s computer dilemma.

We’re in the midst of some trying times. We can’t afford to lose a good customer when it can be easily prevented. Look at your service offering from the customer’s point of view. Would you do business with you?

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