Monday, October 6, 2008

"Customers don't expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong"-Donald Porter

I have no idea who Donald Porter is. But I appreciate what he has to say. Of all the years that I worked in some sort of customer service related field, I have to say, I have learned a few things. I've learned that you can say almost anything to anyone as long as you have a smile on your face. People appreciate smiles.
I've also learned that even if you don't agree with the return of product, discount, or freebie (etc) that the customer is getting, you still have to do it. So make it comfortable for at least make eye contact.
Let's take a look at some of my customer service jobs I have had, shall we?
-Front Desk at Navy Pier-Have you ever seen Navy Pier? This is not a tiny little lobby where you have 2 or 3 people at a's a pier folks! I would have groups of 20-30 high school students in front of me all wanting to know where the arcade is! (Just so you are all aware, there is no "arcade" at the Pier. The South Arcade at Navy Pier refers to "an arched or covered passageway, usually with shops on each side".)
-Navy Pier Players-We sang songs for the public, not your typical customer service, it was harder, because there are no bigger skeptics than better wear that costume proudly cause if you don't buy it, the kids won't.
-Origins (Marshall Field's on Michigan and free standing store on Halsted)- This was a fun one. Now I will fully admit that I am a terrible salesperson. I could give a shit if you bought a $50 moisturizer. But I did give a shit if you had fun in my store! I sold make up for god's sake I was not saving the world, why shouldn't it be fun ( and why shouldn't saving the world be fun, for that matter). I loved the days where I never had to leave my station...where all I had to do was put make up on you and gossip. Even the days when I was exhausted and I had to do a Healthy Happy Hour for a group of 80 pound dancers who had been partying all night and didn't care what I was saying...I did it with a smile.
-SPCA of AA County- I thought working with animals would be a nice change...apparently I smiled a little too much in the interview and they asked me to be their Office Manager...which was fun...for about a day. This is not the kind of customer service you want to give. Without going too much into detail these are angry, emotional, high stress people in front of you...I did a lot of defusing. But it still makes my point. There was once a gentleman who, through a misunderstanding (on both sides) we declined to adopt to...sorry...I declined. After a lengthy discussion with a supervisor it was decided that we would in fact do the adoption...sorry...I would do the adoption...can you say awkward...but I did it with, you guessed it...a smile.
Which brings me to today. When I found out that I could no longer drive without glasses (god, I'm old) I decided to fork out some dough for 2 pair...2 nice pair. One sort of classic brown and one more funky black and blue. I had my eye exam, got my glasses and was on my way. That was 4 months ago. The other night at our friends house I set my glasses down (the funky pair) for about 20 minutes, I picked them back up to put on and they were broken. Nobody had touched them, I certainly hadn't dropped them but they were broken...not-able-to-be-fixed-by-me broken.
This morning I head into the unnamed eyeglass place to have them replaced...oh fuck it, it was VisionWorks. The young lady behind the counter is on the phone when I walk in. I hear "Can I help you?" I don't respond because you see, she's on the phone. I then hear the same voice, only annoyed this time, still with the phone up to her ear, no smile on her face, "Can I help you?" I now realize that she is talking to me. I explain what I need quickly, cause she's still on the phone. She tells me to have a seat at the table. Have you ever been to an eyeglass store? It's all tables! I quickly ask which one...she rolls her eyes (!) and tells me "The one where everyone else is".
Another young lady comes to help me when it is my turn. I tell here what's up and she gets my file and informs me that I did not purchase the warranty and I will have to pay for the frames.
Now here is where the "customer service bitch" that lives in my head has a seizure. I NEVER ask for free shit but I do know when you (as the company) need to fix something. I very calmly explain to the woman that I had only bought the glasses 4 months ago and they broke as to NO fault of my own and I would appreciate if she could see if anything could be done about it. Yes I was that nice. I understand how people can freak out and yell and think that that will get them what they want. I don't work that way, that's when you get spit in your coffee.
Without looking me in the eye or responding at all, she goes into the lab..which is surrounded by glass. Not only can I see her but I can hear her bitching about me! Once again without a word she comes out and takes my glasses and receipt. Finally I realize that she is in fact getting me a new pair of glasses, but of course she never told me this herself.
It took all of 10 minute to get my new pair of glasses, I thanked her kindly for her time and help and came home to have lunch.
Oh, Sara! Why didn't you call that bitch out? Why didn't you find a manager and tell them how their employees need a seminar on customer service or they should be put out on their asses....their big, no smilin', eye rollin', receipt grabbin' no shame bitchin' asses!?
Here's why-It wouldn't do any good. I got my glasses didn't I? I wasn't morally offended. It felt better not to ruin her day too. And as my mom always says, kill them with kindness.
And as Jeff Bezos (I don't know him either) once said: "If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the internet, they can each tell 6000 friends"

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