Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Customer Service - Marketplace Oxymoron.

My wife sent something via FedEx for her employer. FedEx. Overnight. Next day delivery. Expensive. Didn't get there when it was supposed to. Didn't get there when it was promised. Didn't get there even though her company paid for the service. Now, I totally understand that it's Christmas and there are lots of people sending things to a lot of people waiting for them. I don't even mind that things are late -- so long as a few things happen.
First, the company should apologize for the bad service. When Liz called FedEx, the "customer service representative" didn't apologize. At all. No remorse, no guilt, no nothing. All the person (somewhere in Bangalore, we suspect) could say, over and over, is that "the package was still on the ground" an had not left Los Angeles yet. No explanation. When press for details about re-delivery -- nothing. "The package is still on the ground" and has not been delivered. No promise of re-delivery. Nothing. Now, this person was very nice. They just couldn't get off script long enough to satisfy a disgruntled customer.

Second, the company should make the bad service or product right or refund the money. I mean, without the customer having to beg for it. If a company screws up, I expect them to voluntarily make good on their side of the bargain. They already have my money. Not asking too much. If I paid 20 bucks for overnight delivery and it doesn't get there overnight, give me some money back voluntarily and quickly and don't make me feel like I'm the one being mean or wrong or demanding. In effect we had a contract. You broke that contract. Make it right or give me my money back. Period.

Third, follow up to make sure I have been satisfied an the problem has been taken care of. In this day and age where every telemarketing company knows my phone number and every porn site can get access to my email, certainly a company with whom I do business and that has my credit card information and address can contact me.

Fourth, say thank you once in a while.

FedEx are the only ones at fault here. The lack of basic customer service is widespread. Time Warner Cable has very nice Customer Service Reps on the phone. They are very apologetic (see #2 above). However, it took EIGHT weeks to get a problem resolved with my cable service. Eight weeks and three technicians visiting my house later, I finally got ESPN back. No one followed up to see if everything was still alright. No one offered to adjust my bill. No one apologized for the inconvenience of having to rearrange my schedule so I could be home during the blocks of time necessary for the technician to come to my house. I'll bet a million dollars that if I stopped paying my bill for eight weeks my service would have been turned off faster than Brett Favre can sling a touchdown.

On the micro level, when was the last time you were actually thanked for shopping somewhere. Where you gave a clerk some money or swiped your credit card and they handed you change or your receipt with a pleasant "thanking you for shopping here, today." The printed * THANK YOU * on the receipt doesn't cut it. I want a real person to acknowledge my decision to spend money at that particular store.

Sometimes, just to get myself worked up into a lather, I will say "thank you" to the person who is taking my money. Just to see their reaction.  Inevitably, I get a reply like, "No problem," or "Sure," or "No worries." Maybe a "You're welcome." Like they did me a favor taking my money. Never a "Oh no, thank YOU."

Here's my New Year's resolution (well, one of them anyway): If I don't get a "thank you," I don't go back to the store. I will then follow up with a template email to the company HQ noting my action. This may seem petty, I agree, but we have to start somewhere. With all the hardship doled out this past year to regular people through the course of the recession, it is not too much to ask for businesses to compete for our hard earned money. Banks, grocery stores, espresso bars, gas stations, your on notice. Treat your customers like they matter or we'll find someone else who does.

Don't make me write Stephen Colbert.

Thank you for reading. Please come back.