Phone company customer service repsWarning: today’s post is a mishmash of stories, but they’re all tied together with a customer service focus. Be sure to read through to the end. There are some good thoughts in there.

Story 1

I was reading an interesting article about customer service by a friend recently and had to share. Krista Francis is an HR director for a nonprofit in Washington, DC, and she wrote about a bad customer service experience she witnessed.

So I was on a train–the rail line shall remain anonymous–and we were delayed for five hours because of an accident.

A nearby passenger fretted about the distinct possibility of missing his connection because of the delay. Seeing the Assistant Conductor, he seized the opportunity to ask for guidance. He was clearly worried, but polite and respectful in his approach.

Direct quotes from the representative:  “What do you expect me to do about it?” “I can\’t help you.”  “Ask at the counter when we get to the station.” (click here to finish the story)

Story 2

Jason Seiden, a leadership-lovin’ guy, had this to say about a recent bad dining experience.

I was in Aspen last night, having dinner with a friend and a four of his coworkers. As there were six of us, the tip was automatically included on our bill. 20%.

Maybe that\’s why our waiter thought he could take us for granted? He was slow, he got drink orders wrong, he brought our food out at weird times, and he even left us sitting with the check for 15 minutes after he saw us put our credit cards down—we couldn\’t even pay! Worst of all, his attitude was blase when we brought issues to his attention; he left each of us with the distinct impression that he did not care.

And why should he? Our tab ran into the hundreds of dollars, and his 20% was fixed. Easy money!

Or so he thought… (click here to finish the story)

Story 3

This story comes from Rachel. I’d link back to her post, but her website isn’t active anymore. The story is still solid, though, so read on.

While waiting for my car inspection and oil change at my dealership I took the time to dive back in to reading The Pursuit of Something Better. The book relies heavily on data from employee satisfaction surveys and discusses some manager\’s attempts to skew the survey results.

I made good progress in the book before being told that my car was ready. As I handed over my credit card I was told that Honda may call and survey me about my experience. That\’s not an unusual event so I nodded. Then I was told that my response to the questions should be “excellent.”

The service representative went on to tell me that “it actually hurts [her] score to answer anything less than excellent.” And then she passed me a sheet with the questions I would be asked, the responses I could give, and then ratings for each response. There was another note at the top saying “Please let us know if you cannot rate your service experience as ‘excellent.\’” The service representative even highlighted the “excellent” in case I didn\’t get the hint already.

Needless to say I left the dealership feeling dirty. The service I received was perfectly fine up until the point that I was told I must say the service was excellent. I\’m actually at a loss to think of how an oil change and inspection on a year old car could in anyway be excellent. Thanks for not breaking anything on my perfectly new car?

I would be very angry at dealership if I wasn\’t so confused by the Honda ratings. My options for responses were: excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor. This reminded me of a recent conversation with an HR veteran who stated that performance is only ever one of three things: below expectations, meets expectations, above expectations. By Honda\’s standards a “good” experience (ie. meets expectations)  is only worth a 50% score on the question. I wonder what ratings the dealerships are supposed to meet. If I do get called for the survey I\’ll be very sure to ask what the difference between each rating is since it does not seem to be explained.

Yes, shame on the dealership for pressuring their customers into answering the survey in a dishonest manner. But the fault is on Honda for having such a horrible rating system in the first place. The results of this survey are pointless since the survey was so poorly designed that dealerships feel the need to lie and pressure their customers – which actually ruins the customer experience.

My Take On Customer Service

I have my own short story to add. I use a service called “Ning” to support some of my eBook customers. It’s a neat way for them to share stories and generally help each other prepare for the PHR/SPHR exams. Well, recently I saw a news article that said that Ning would be shutting down its service to smaller groups like mine.

I was dumbfounded and outraged. I’d received no communication from Ning about the issue, but apparently it was the truth, because a few weeks later they finally acknowledged the issue. It’s put me and thousands of other Ning creators in a bind, because we all can’t afford to pay the new prices.

I can only imagine how those others who didn’t see tech-related news are going to feel when they find out that their networks are going to be shut down.

How to Rock Some Customer Service

Great example of a customer service failure

This customer service agent failed this time

Customer service should always be a priority, because customers are the lifeblood of a company. Treat them well, and they will forever remember who was there for them. They become champions for your cause. Treat them poorly, and word gets out very quickly about the type of service they received.

The problem is that many people are shielded and don’t see how their efforts are tied into customer service. I read and reviewed a great book called “The Pursuit of Something Better.” It talked about how U.S. Cellular made the decision to filter every decision through the eyes of the customer. Customer-focused decision making became second nature, and their clients were transformed from merely being “customers” to being “champions” for the company.

Think about it. Ever had a horrible experience with a company who treated you poorly? You probably told someone (or a lot of someones!) about it. On the flip side, do you have a favorite restaurant where the service is always top-notch and impeccable? You probably tell people about that, too!

Yes, I realize that in HR, we may not have customers in the traditional sense, but that doesn’t mean we can’t focus on them, right? When you’re dreaming up a sweet new policy, think about how it will impact your organization’s customers. Let that guide your decisions whenever possible. Shall I repeat?

Let every action you  take be filtered through the question: “How will this impact our customers?”

Whew… I’ve said enough. Anything you’d like to add with regard to customer service?