Posts Tagged ‘Customer Service’

Hammer and NailI’m currently reading the 10th anniversary edition of The Cluetrain Manifesto. The first edition came out in 2000, so even this edition is a few years old. For those unfamiliar, it is a classic book that had its genesis in 95 theses posted in 1999 at – a site largely kept as it was then so current readers can have much the same experience and appreciate the beginnings of something remarkable.

The basic premise of the theses and the resulting book is that markets are conversations and if businesses want to remain viable, they will have to get a clue to the impact of the Internet on how those conversations are affecting markets. I’ll write a book review soon and will say much more about it then. For now, I would suggest anyone interested check out the website where you can read the original book for free. You should at least read the 95 theses posted on the home page. The fact that they were written in 1999 may blow your mind. Talk about insightful and ahead of their time! I read them for the first time a few years ago and I am still deeply impressed by them.

That said, the purpose of this post is to relate one story from the book about customer service. All of us are customers of many sellers. We’ve had good and bad customer service experiences. We share those experiences with others and today have incredible potential reach via online social networks to magnify those praises or rants far beyond the walls of our homes.

Enter normally mild-mannered grandmother Mona Shaw. We read about her in the book’s section “Markets are Relationships”:

In August 2007, Mona Shaw took a hammer to her local Comcast office. Literally. First, BAM! She blasted the customer service rep’s keyboard. Then BOOM! She took out a monitor. Then POW! She destroyed a phone. People screamed and ran. When the cops showed up, WHACK! She hammered the phone, one more time. Up to this point, there was nothing exceptional about Mrs. Shaw. She was a retired nurse. A grandmother. She took in stray dogs. She went to church every Sunday, and was the secretary for both her local AARP and a square dance club. What made her snap was something even less exceptional: awful customer service.”

I think I’m in love with Mona Shaw! Who among us hasn’t wanted to do something similar after an infuriating experience of bad customer service?

The chapter goes on to explain the details of what transpired over several days to put Mona past her breaking point. I won’t go into all of those details here, but suffice it to say that numerous things happened, including:

  • service people showing up days late;
  • service people not finishing the job correctly when they did show up;
  • having their phone number of 34 years changed without their knowledge or permission;
  • getting lost in a maze of bad call center phone systems;
  • having services shut off;
  • having to wait outside the Comcast office in August heat in hopes of speaking with a manager, only to be told hours later that the manager had left for the weekend.

The following Monday is when Mona returned with her hammer and sought her revenge.

I’m not advocating violence in response to bad customer service, but I can understand the emotion that leads one to at least think about it. If we have paid our hard-earned money to a company for a product or service, we expect reasonable action if there is an issue with that product or service. We expect a timely response. We expect people to do what they say they will do. We expect things that are wrong to be made right. We expect to be treated with respect and courtesy. We may not necessarily expect to be on the receiving end of the attitude that “the customer is always right,” but we at least expect to be on the receiving end of a genuine effort to help by someone who cares.

This same section of the book begins with a quote from one of the authors, Doc Searls: “When all you’ve got is a hammer, bad service looks like a nail.”

I hear regularly about exceptional customer service experiences with companies like Zappos and Fitbit and maybe a few others. I hear way too often even more stories of bad customer service. I can’t speak for any company – not even my own – regarding matters of customer service because that is not a business area I have ever been assigned to except in a minimal way as it might relate to another role I have.  Therefore, I won’t presume to pontificate about what all other companies ought to do in every customer service circumstance. Those involved know details I do not.

Still, I know that as a customer I have the option of going elsewhere for most types of products and services. If I am disgusted enough with companies I current relate to, or if I am pulled away by better promises and agreements by competitors, I will likely make the move and not look back. I may go quietly, or I may not in this day of social media amplification of an individual’s message.

I don’t expect to grab a hammer and start bashing keyboards, phones and monitors of those who tick me off, but I will take my money and my loyalty elsewhere if needed customer service sucks. I wish more businesses understood that. I wish more businesses cared.

Do you have a story of exceptionally good or bad customer service you’d be willing to share? I’d love to hear it in your comment.

Top 10 ListBelow are the most viewed posts on this blog during 2012.  If you missed one of them or have long since forgotten what it was about, check it out.  Most are quick lessons learned of 366 words or less (the exceptions being #2 and #9 – both posts from 2011 that still were among the most viewed in 2012).

1. Be There: Giving full attention to the people you are with and not being distracted by technology or anything else.

2. Trust: The importance of trust between people, and implications if trust is broken, especially in relationships at work.

3. Sometimes All It Takes Is 20 Seconds: Inspired by the movie We Bought a Zoo, thoughts about how 20 seconds of insane courage can change your life.

4. Companies Need Customer Service Like Granny Provides: Based on my regular experiences with a sweet, old lady when I donate blood at the Red Cross, this is what customer service should be like.

5. You Need Someone At Work To Relate To: Being the only person at your business doing your type of work can be very lonely.  Having one other person to relate to can help tremendously.

6. Kisses Are Priceless: From Valentine’s Day, 2012, read about two unexpected kisses, how they made my day and why kisses are priceless.

7. Exhaustion Can Hurt So Good: After an extreme Muddy Fanatic race with good friends, the mind and spirit can be so satisfied even if the body is spent.

8. Don’t Pre-Judge: Whether dealing with people or animals, you can easily make wrong assumptions and treat others differently if you pre-judge them.

9. More Questions Than Answers: Still-unanswered questions from 2011 regarding social learning and the use of social media in learning.

10. Evil Is Real, and So Is the Cure: Reflections following the tragic elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut from my Christian worldview.

Thanks to all the readers who made these the most read.  I look forward to seeing what interests you this year.

Online ShoppingI just made an attempt to go shopping for a couple of things – one item I want for my smart phone and a Christmas gift for a friend.  After two hours, three individual stores and a mall, I came back home empty handed.  The first store had one of the items and it was overpriced.  The second store had a similar item at a greater cost.  The third store had neither item, and the mall had a limited selection of one item, again too costly.

Enter eBay.

After spending about 20 minutes perusing more options than I cared to consider, I made a purchase of the phone item for less than $6 compared to $30-35 in the stores.  I decided to go a different route with the gift.

Some reports for online sales the Monday after Thanksgiving – Cyber Monday – claim about $1.5 billion was sold online that day.  How many shoppers now go into retail stores to touch and feel and look over items, only to turn around and purchase them online at a much cheaper price?

Consumers rule.  Tech savvy consumers rule more.  It’s simple to use a smart phone app to scan an item’s bar code and immediately know which local stores have it in stock at what price and how that compares to the major online retailers like Amazon.

Customer service can play into this as well.  At the first store I went to tonight, one teenager finally asked if I was finding what I needed, but he couldn’t help with the one question I had and took no initiative to find out or ask others on my behalf.  At the second store that had a total of two workers and three customers, nobody even acknowledged my existence in the 5-10 minutes I was there (thanks, Sprint).  The third store was a messy, chaotic Toys R Us with no workers roaming around to help.  Only one person at one store in the mall actually initiated service and correctly answered my question.

Speed, cost, convenience, service – if the scales tilt in favor of online shopping, that’s where the public will go (as they already are).

Leap year lesson #353 is It’s no wonder why people shop online.

I wrote the following while on a Southwest Airlines flight yesterday from San Francisco to Las Vegas.

I have long been a fan of Southwest Airlines for several reasons, and each flight with them reinforces the notion that more businesses would do well to learn from them.

For example, some of the positives include:

  • They don’t gouge the customer with extra baggage fees, still allowing two bags per customer without fees, all while maintaining a low fare.
  • The boarding process is simple – first check-in, first board without assigned seating.  Some don’t like that, but I do.
  • The flight attendants are allowed to show their sense of humor in making announcements.  Moments ago, one announced “If you’re traveling with small children, what were you thinking?” and then after giving the instructions for inflating the life vest in case of a water landing, she said “If none of that works, I hope you can swim really well.”  There were other nuggets scattered throughout the flight.
  • Lastly, they have a long-standing reputation of excelling at customer service.

Too many companies get caught up in presenting themselves in some so-called “professional” manner that they forget to do what is in the best interest of relating to and serving the customer.  Older, larger companies are especially prone to this mindset.  If they would loosen up some, they may just find that people relate to them more and like them better.

Oh, to have more leadership in businesses that value simplicity in business processes and a culture that makes the experience for the consumer a positive one from start to end.

Leap year lesson #237 is More companies should be like Southwest Airlines.

Our reliance on wireless access to the Internet is pretty much a given for most folks these days.  You can go to about any McDonald’s location or a bazillion other places and connect.  We have grown accustomed to having such access, whether in our own homes, where we work, eat, shop or hang out.   I was reminded of this several times recently:

  • When wireless access was not provided at the first hotel I stayed at in Anqing, China for four nights; it took two days to figure out I could still physically connect using a cable – something so foreign to me now I didn’t even think about the possibility until I saw someone else do it;
  • When wireless access was very conveniently provided in our Beijing hotel the last three nights of our trip;
  • When wireless access was provided at Baptist East Hospital in Louisville during my wife’s brief stay the last two days.

I admit that I was a little irritated when I did not have wireless access at the first hotel, even if it was in China.  It’s something I expect these days, especially in a nice hotel such as the one we stayed at.  To not offer it seems inconsiderate toward the guests in this day and age.  I sighed with relief when I saw how easy the access was at the Beijing hotel.  At a hospital, I wouldn’t necessarily expect wireless, so it was a pleasant and nice convenience when it was readily available in my wife’s room, allowing each of us to sit there with our laptops and get things done while awaiting test results.

The first location failed to meet expectations.  The second met expectations.  The third exceeded expectations.  Which do you think I am most pleased with?  Of course, the one that exceeded expectations.

If you run a business or organization, it is in your best interests to exceed the expectations of your customers.  Doing so will increase the chances of good things being said about you, as well as increase your customer’s loyalty to you.  That’s a win-win both for you and your customers.

Leap year lesson #120 is Exceed your customers’ expectations.