IS SERVICE GETTING WORSE, OR IS IT ME?

Lately I’ve been feeling a lot like Andy Rooney of “60 Minutes” fame. I find myself asking out loud, “Is customer service in the world getting worse, or is it just my perception of the same?” Like you, all I want in life is to encounter a little customer satisfaction for me. I want my food served promptly and courteously. It would be nice for the auto technician to be efficient and competent. I would derive great pleasure, when I call a major banking institution or computer service department or what ever company I call, in talking with a real, live, friendly person without having to punch buttons on a phone tree directory for thirty minutes or longer. Is it too much to ask? Is there any way possible that I could get value for what I pay for? To receive prompt and courteous service for a change? Do you feel this way too, or is it just me? Let me share some of my frustrations with you. You might find a way to help me as a friend or as an aware and astute consumer. Will someone help me, please?

Let me begin by saying that I actually have received terrific customer service once in the last six months. It was on a busy holiday at the “Outback Restaurant” recently. The place was packed. A 45-minute wait according to the smiling receptionist. But I could sit at the bar and eat. Checking out the area I noticed nobody else at the Bar. I sat down. The bartender/waiter said, “What for you sir?” I said, “How about some sweet tea and that new chicken dish there on the menu?” The young man said, “No problem, I’ll get you started.”  In three minutes I had an ice cold mug of sweet tea. Two minutes later he brought some hot fresh baked bread. Fifteen minutes later I was eating my new chicken dish and had a tea refill and another loaf of bread. I told the young man, “You are the best waiter I have ever had in this place.” He said, “Well, you were the best customer I’ve ever had because you knew what you wanted and we got the order in and viola!” Happily, I paid my check and gave the gentleman a 30% tip. As I left the restaurant, I noticed that some of the people who came in when I did were still waiting. Eureka! I finally got some great service, with a smile, prompt, efficient, and friendly.

But I do have some bad stories I want to share. I’m going to name names too, because I think it is only fair to give the bad service folks a little publicity as well as laud the good ones. About a year ago I bought a set of tires for my truck. About $750 or so with a life time rotation fee attached.  Six months went by and I took my truck in on a Saturday morning for a free rotation. The place was BTW. I was the first customer of the day. It should have taken less than 30-minutes. An hour and a half later I was still waiting and getting irritated. Other customers came in, got serviced and were leaving. Confronting the young man at the desk only seemed to irritate him. He went to check. When he came back he said it would be ten more minutes. Well, 25 minutes later he said it was done. The next day when I stopped to get gasoline I noticed two of the special lug nuts were missing from one of my tires. I called the manager of the BTW. He said, “Come in this morning and I’ll put them on for you.”  When I arrived the manager comes out and says, “Sorry, we can’t find your lug nuts and will have to order them.” Absurd. My lug nuts should be there in the shop. They weren’t. He said he would call me when they came in. Four days later he called and told me he had them. He said he would be there at a specific time. I arrived at the specific time. The manager had stepped out. The guy on duty had no idea where my lug nuts were. I said, “Go check in your managers office right now.” He did and came back with five sets of lug nuts and tried to match them with my truck tire. Finally, the young man said, “I THINK these are the right ones, if they fall off come back and we’ll get you some more.” Incredibly inept. The entire scenario was totally frustrating. I told the guy I would never be back and that I would discourage everyone I knew not to do business with them.

Another thing that grates my craw as we say in Mississippi where I am from. Grating ones craw is not a good thing, I might add. In the last month I have received no less than eight marketing calls from Bellsouth. Each time I tell them that I am satisfied with my current service. I do not want to change anything. Please stop calling, I tell them, and take me off your list. All the calls but one comes from either a man or woman calling from somewhere in India. First, I tell them I am not interested in making changes to my Bellsouth calling plan. They are persistent. They keep talking undeterred. Second, I tell them over and over again that I do not want to change. Third, I tell them to tell all the other people in the Punjab Province not to call Me. I say thank you very much and I hang up the phone. Once, after such a conversation I got another call immediately after hanging up and the young woman on the line said to me, “You are the most rude American I have ever spoken to on the phone.” What audacity. I said, “What part of do not call me again and I am not interested do you NOT understand?” Once, I did get a persistent American guy from Dallas on the Bellsouth marketing call. He was understandable so I spoke with him and he offered me the new package. I said, “Break it down for me and tell me how much I will save if I take this new plan.” He broke it down by the numbers, paused for a minute or two and said, “Oops, it shows me here that the new plan would cost you $2.49 more per month.” I told the young man, “You guys need to work on your new offers, and it should cost less not more. I’m not interested. Please don’t call again. Thank you. Goodbye.” They called again last week.

Are you able to sense my frustration? Giving bad service and trying to “Convince” a customer who knows what they want is not the way to build up a customer base or hold on to a customer. Bad service and bullying are not what I would call efficient and effective customer service. Chuck Reaves of Atlanta, Georgia is one of the foremost successful professional speakers and sales trainers in the world today. Chuck says, “The new trend in sales today is faster more efficient service.” Everyone wants the sales experience to be better, faster, and we want what we buy at a lower cost, according to Mr. Reaves. If a corporation wants to learn what is new in sales and effective sales training I would encourage the decision makers in that business to engage my friend and sales mentor Chuck Reaves to fine tune their approach to making customers happy, content, and satisfied.

All of us want to be treated fairly by those we seek a service from. I believe that most everyone wants to feel that they should be served with dignity, respect, and integrity. Those offering a service should treat and serve their customers like they would want to be treated in a similar situation. When the average Joe or Jane has a problem all they want is a solution to their problem. If a business offers solutions to problems they should do everything within their power to do what the customer asks and even go beyond the call of duty to exceed the customer’s expectations. If a company is in the service business their top priority should be fair, prompt, efficient, service. Anything less than the best is insufficient. Even the slightest effort made to exceed the customer’s expectations will be seen as excellence in the market place. Any company that is truly customer service driven will reap the benefits, and rewards of solid customer loyalty. Get it right the first time and do it with a smile! So, I ask you again. Is customer service getting worse? Or is it just me?

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