Thursday, June 21, 2007

If the customer is king, why is his majesty on hold?

When I was training in retail, lo these long years ago, the first thing I was told was that "the customer is king." Not "the customer is always right," or some other variant thereof, because, occasionally, the customer is wrong. For example, if the customer buys a pair of undies, wears them for a week, and then says he wants to return them, most stores can cite the "no returns on dirty skivvies" policy, and the customer will have to live with his purchase as it is.

But we were told that, as a customer-based operation (isn't all real business just that?), we were to do everything in our power (at our set rank) to satisfy the customer. If we couldn't do anything, we could kick it upstairs, to the upper management or the customer service offices (and we'd call them ourselves, so as not to waste any of the customer's time at home). And, we seldom had to wait longer than a few minutes to reach that customer service person.

It wasn't always easy, but it was also never complicated. If anybody had to wait more than five minutes, there was all manner of hell to pay, in all offices.

So why is it that, today, the average wait, including time spent negotiating the labyrinthine automated calling systems, is over two hours?

Mom tried, last week, to find somebody willing and able to haul the scrap Pop is removing from their garage roof. It isn't much -- just about enough to fill a 4x4 pickup truck bed -- but it's still too much to put into the garbage cans for weekly collection.

Mom called Waste Management services (WM. You've probably seen their trucks all around town), in hopes of having them deliver a small dumpster for a week. She spent 10 minutes jumping through electronic hoops, then was on hold for more than 45 minutes without a single human contact. She got fed up and hung up.

We found a friend who is willing to do the hauling for the cost of gas.

In other words, bad customer relations just cost one firm probably $250+. And, who knows? It will probably be more if we need to have more removals in the future.

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