Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Thank You For Bad Customer Service.

Thank you for bad customer service.

Felt good to be writing again, I know this isn't my normal pop culture blog, I'm looking to grow and evolve a bit bringing more of my professional experience to the BOOM page as well. Don'w worry, I've sprinkled some nice reference throughout. Enjoy. 

I have been working for twenty six years, and in that time all of the positions I have held have involved dealing with customers on some level. I have been a cart pusher, a stock boy, a sales person, a supervisor and a manager; my customers have been face to face, over the phone and internal. Over those twenty six years all of my positions have allowed me to grow as a person in how to not only deal with my customers at my job, but how to also be the ideal customer.

In situations of poor customer service I am never the angry customer cursing and making outrageous demands. Instead since I have dealt with those individuals, I am one who explains my situation, understand the restrictions of certain levels of employment and escalate when necessary, requesting only what is just, and what I would deliver to an individual if I were taking that call.

Recently my cell phone developed a problem. It wants to stay in airplane mode, this doesn’t allow it to do anything fun like grow wings and fly, instead all it does is tell me there is no service. When I shut airplane mode OFF, I am within seconds transformed back to airplane mode. After exhausting every option I could find on the Internet I turned to the company who sold me the phone.

Rather than name names, let’s just say this cell phone company has a name sounding like something you do when you’re getting close to a finish line. I used their online chat service to start, they walked through some basic steps at first, and some more advance steps later. This did nothing for my new airplane phone.

I was then told I should visit a local company store, and see if they were able to help with the situation. I went to the store closest to my home, and with their big yellow sign a glow I had hope that my phone would soon be fixed. Instead I think I walked into a training video called ‘What to not say and do with customers’ starring bad service Stanley.

Stanley’s first comment to me after I explained my airplane situation was, “I can’t believe this isn’t in a case!” Stanley must be shocked easily as his tone and attitude on my lack of case was as if I told him I built the phone at home out of mud and sticks. My explanation of the missing case was that I had taken it off before I had handed it to him, my bad for me trying to make Stanley’s job easier.

From there Stanley ventured into the back room, where, unfortunately, the mage’s and warlocks who live back there were unable to fix my phone completely. Stanley told me he had to enter some “magic codes” to complete the process. In the midst of Stanley fixing my phone, he complained about the store Christmas music, sang his own song apparently called Why Isn’t This Working, and he asked if I have to hide a tattoo I have on my wrist at my job. When I told him no I don’t, Stanley then showed me his tattoos and said “we have to hide ours.” Apparently Stanley isn’t good at customer service, fixing phones or keeping secret his tattoos.  

When I attempted to tell Stanley of an issue involving my phone he pulled back my figurative reigns and literally said “Whoa, whoa, I’m still working on it.” I did not realize Stanley was this intent at performing bad service and that he could not be disturbed.

After several failed magical codes, and another visit to the mysterious back room, Stanley told me I should call customer service and see what they could do for me. He did not recommend me talking to their tech support as “they know nothing” and he wasn’t sure that customer service would be able to help, because as he put it, I was “screwed”. Now I don’t know if meant Phillips head or Flat, but either way it didn’t sound good.

I got home, and in a calm fashion told the tale of Stanley to the customer service agent that answered the phone. All she could get out at first was “Oh…oh no.” Yes I assured her that the legend of Stanley was true. She did everything she could to try and make me feel better and never once brought the Philips head or any other tool out as Stanley had suggested.

She then told me to head to a different location, this was a full service repair store, and the Yellow sign would surely solve my problems this time. I made a longer trek away from my home and handed the nice people there my phone so that they could this time not attempt to fix it, but rather verify it was beyond repair and order me a new phone. It took minutes for my phone to transform from cell phone to airplane. (Worst. Autobot. Ever.) The nice people told me they would order me a phone and it would be here in 3-5 days. I found it odd that they had no phones on premise, being a phone store, but I figured why argue a moot point.

It took the full 5 days for the phone to arrive, and half a day for them to call me. When I showed up to pick up my phone the nice ladies who helped me the first time were not there, and instead two gentlemen were on staff to talk to me. I told them I was there for my new phone, they grabbed it from the back and asked me for my old dead phone, apparently as a tithe to receive my new working non-airplane phone. However, I left it at home. I told them I would gladly drop off the broken phone to Stanley the next day, him being another employee of the Yellow sign and closer to home. This was unacceptable.  

Rather than try and help me in any way, regardless of my long journey to his store, and me being without a phone for nearly two weeks, (this must be what if feels like to be a hobbit), I was told it is policy that they must have the old phone. At this point my calm, good customer abilities were being stretched. I asked nicely if they could possibly make an exception for me due to my circumstances. The Orc’s response (he was actually a large fellow) “If I do it for you, I’d have to do it for everyone.” I looked around the store and noticed the only ones in the building were myself and the two men who worked there. I responded with “There’s no one else here, you’re secret will be safe with me.” He did not find this funny and again referred to his store policy. 

He also went on to say that his store was not affiliated with the Yellow Sign store Stanley works at, his store was privately owned.  I don’t recall asking for this information, nor did I think I walked into ‘Jimmy’s Cell Phone Emporium’ I was positive the sign outside spelled out something that rhymed with Stint.

I asked to call customer service from their phone, but I was transferred into automated response purgatory and after being there nearly an hour and realizing the end was not looking good for me I chose to end the story for the night. I walked back up to man behind the counter and said “You’re not going to do anything for me, if you call you’re manager you’re telling me he won’t do anything for me, and I’d be wasting more of my time and both of yours.” He responded with a “Yup.” The other man there I think actually had some compassion for me as he said to me as I turned to leave, “Have a good night” but all I could muster out of me without involving four letter colorful language was “too late”.

I drove the long drive home, sat down at my kitchen table and called customer service one more time, this time immediately asking for a supervisor, but again in a nice calm tone.
I spoke to a supervisor and explained a tale that Peter Jackson would no doubt need five films to show. This manager’s response to me was the best thing she could have said. “I have heard everything you have to say, it sounds like a bad situation, tell me what to do to make it better, and I’ll see if I can make that happen.” 

With that, she defused my temperament and I made my requests.

I asked for my new phone to be shipped to Stanley’s location, it was closer, and for my service to be credited for the days I have not had any service; nothing outrageous, no demands of a helicopter to fly me to a tropical location or even the brand new latest model phone.  She said that sounds reasonable, she would need some time to see what she could do, and that she would call me back within the hour.

It only took 25 minutes. She was told that the Orc’s store would not ship it to Stanley’s, apparently the big Yellow sign can sometimes be a ruse, and you’re not actually working with your companies company. She apologized and said of course I wouldn’t be charged the days I am without service, but what else could she do. I told her, the ball was now in her court, I had made my request, a fair one, and she was unable to help. 

At this point I expected very little, and thought I would get possibly a $20 credit, or maybe enrolled in the Jelly of the month club, it is the gift that keeps on giving; instead I was once again defused by this woman who understood her job. The credit she came back was well over anything I expected so my response was, “That is acceptable.” I swore I heard her breathe a sigh of relief as if she just ended a hostage situation.

She then went on to thank me for being such a nice and understanding customer and asked what my secret was for staying calm. I told her my job is the same as hers just at a different company, and I would never be that bad customer that a supervisor has to deal with. I then thanked her for her professional attitude and honest attempt at helping.  

I now want to thank Stanley, the Orc’s and every bad situation I had within this journey because you have inspired me. I am making it my professional goal, my vow, to assist every customer I come in contact with, whether it is face to face, over the phone or internal to not have this type of experience. I will not make excuses or justify bad situations. I will also train every employee I have that they too should work at making sure that the customers they are speaking with feel as though we are listening to their problem and truly understanding their frustration and concerns. In my current job our department has the philosophy of making our customers feel Welcome, Helped and Appreciated. This story will become a part on how to make customers feel that way.  

As a professional you never stop learning and you use every customer experience to be better at what you do, as a Stanley you never start. Thank you for bad customer service, for it ignites a fire in some of us to make sure it never happens to anyone else.