Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bad Customer Service and The Flinstones Lunch Box Incident

Don’t fall over, but I finally decided to write a blog today.  (What was that a big “whump” I just heard?  Didn’t I just say don’t fall over?)

But, yeah.  Since it has been so long since my last blog, I should probably make a point of writing something funny and lighthearted to make up for my lack of effort here in recent months. 

Instead, I’ve decided to write about Customer Service. The Good. The Bad.  And the Ugly.  The Reaaalllly Ugly.  And that’s not funny.

Any of you in that line of work?  Or will admit to it? 

It’s sort of a trick question anyway because we all, in one way or another, have some responsibility of providing good customer service.  The definition of “customer” changes from situation to situation – sure – but the basic premise remains the same.

There are, of course, obvious Customer Service situations.  Like when there’s a big sign over a desk in the department or grocery store that reads, “Customer Service.”  Yeah, that’s kind of a clue.  Or when you call a company to register a complaint or resolve an issue and get transferred to Customer Service. 

Most of the time, I don’t have too many problems with the level of service I get.  I try to treat people with respect and I also realize that mistakes happen.  I keep in mind that the person I’m asking for help is most likely not the person who made the error in the first place.  And I try really, really hard never to raise my voice. All these things usually help resolve the issue favorably. 

There are also not-so-obvious Customer Service representatives as well.  Like the operator at Company ABC who answers the phone graciously and directs you to the appropriate person so that you don’t spend a good portion of your day in Voicemail Hell wondering how you got stuck in an endless loop of “Listen carefully as our voicemail options have changed” and never again speaking with a live human being. 

Or it can be the runner who delivers your meal and, when you ask them to refill your water because you’re evidently part-camel and you’ve been sucking down water faster than your waiter can keep up, they do not act as though you’ve just asked them something unreasonable, like, say, cut off their big left toe or something.  Even though, technically, they’re just supposed to run your meal to you.  When they say, “Sure, it’ll be my pleasure!” You think, Wow, what great customer service! 

I’ve come away from exchanges smiling and thinking I’ve just received great customer service – and that always makes me feel good. What I’ve learned from Vince, however, is that I feel even better when I acknowledge that great customer service to a manager.  Chances are, the manager has already heard compliments about their employee because that person makes a habit of providing great customer service.  But one more “Attaboy,” or “Good Job!” never hurts.

But then there’s the flip side.  And it ain’t pretty. 

It can be the bagger who hates his job who starts tossing your groceries in the plastic bag with little concern that the sushi that has been artistically arranged for your husband’s dinner is going to get all mangled and the hot green stuff they always include with sushi gets smooshed into one piece in a big glob.

Vince, you should know, carefully portions out his ginger and…that hot green stuff…what’s it called?? Oh, yeah – wasabi!  He portions out the wasabi in equal measures on each piece of sushi. So having a big glob of wasabi smooshed into one piece is not a good thing.  

Blaming the bagger at Kroger’s always makes me feel like I’m passing the buck, even though I certainly didn’t cause the problem. It didn't occur to me that in addition to stating my preference for paper or plastic I'd also be required to ask that my groceries be packed in a non-smooshed manner.  

For me, it’s problematic when someone won’t take responsibility for the error – or they don’t seem to care that they goofed in the first place.  I don’t understand people not taking pride in their work, whatever work it may be. 

Mistakes embarrass me and it’s a good day when I catch a mistake I’ve made and fix it before it becomes public knowledge.  This is where the term “double-checking” comes into play.  More people should try it.

Plus, I try very hard not to make the error in the first place.  So I tend to have a reputation as accurate, conscientious and reliable.  I’d far prefer being this goody-two-shoes sort of person than having someone NOT be surprised that I’ve made a mistake. Or yet another mistake.

But when someone doesn’t care that they’ve erred and won’t even try to resolve the problem, then it becomes a major issue for me and my blood pressure starts a’rising.

I’ve decided that someone, somewhere made the universal decision that providing good Customer Service is no longer required.  Yep, they just took that little rule – you know – the one that says, “The Customer Is Always Right” and crumpled it up into a tiny ball, threw it on the ground and stomped on it a little bit for good measure.

Wish I could have a little chat with that person…

When I walked into the office this morning and realized one of my vendors had made not one, but three serious errors on one order, well, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. This is par for the course with this guy and I’m told we can’t change vendors.  I also shouldn’t be surprised and yet, each time he makes an error, I am.  He’s been doing the same job for us for over 10 years.  Shouldn’t he have the process down pat by now? 

Evidently not. And it’s not like we’ve changed procedures or anything.  He’s just, well, he’s just an idiot.  (In my humble opinion.)  He gets defensive every time I point out an error. He blame shifts.  He denies any involvement.  He blames the customer.  Or UPS. Or the weather. Or me. Everyone but himself.

That’s just not right. 

Good thing for him, he lives several hundred miles away from me; otherwise, I might have to go over and bop him on the noggin’. 

Yeah, like that would work.  Besides, I don’t resort to violence to solve my problems. 

Well, except for that one time in the second grade.  I call it the “Flinstones Lunch Box Incident.”  It occurred one lovely fall day as my brother and I emerged from the school bus.  A fourth grader had been picking on my brother the entire ride home and, once he got off the bus, he threw his books down on the ground in preparation of, I don’t know, a rumble?  A major beat-down? 

To a 7-year-old, that sort of behavior can only spell trouble and I thought the thug was going to kill my brother.  And even at that tender age, I knew my mother would be a little peeved if I went home and told her my brother had gotten murdered at the school bus stop. Not wanting to be the bearer of that bad news, I decided to take matters into my own hands.  So I lifted my metal Flinstones lunch box and, even though I was quaking in my Mary Janes, I wacked that fourth grader right in the back.  I probably only stunned the kid since I’m sure he wasn’t expecting meek little ol’ me to whack him.  Nevertheless, he paused momentarily in confusion, which gave us the opportunity to flee. So my brother and I ran for our very lives all the way home. 

And that fourth grader never again picked on my brother.  In my presence, anyway.

But, still.  Just because it worked in the second grade does not guarantee it will work now.  So, no.  I can’t whack our vendor with a metal lunch box.  Even though it is VERY tempting.

Sigh. I guess I’ll just have to keep double- and triple-checking his activities to try to reduce the number of errors he makes.

But maybe I should check eBay to see if anyone is selling a vintage Flinstones metal lunch box.  It won’t help our vendor become error-free, but it sure would make me feel a little better!


  1. I've missed your blogs!!! :-)

  2. Aw, thank you, Heike! I miss writing them. My plan is to be more diligent in 2013 and write more often!

  3. Every company should provide good customer service to anyone.