Entries Tagged as 'When Bad Service Happens To Good People'

Duct Tape and Customer Trust

After a customer service presentation I recently conducted, an attendee wrote to me about a situation that reminded her of my comments regarding attention to detail – “Everything Speaks,” – and how details can either build or erode customer trust. Here’s some of what she shared:

“I thought you would be interested in seeing the attached picture that I took on my flight home. As I was getting on the plane, my colleague had a hilarious/concerned look on her face (she had boarded a little earlier than me and was one seat ahead of mine) – she said as I was passing her ‘All I can say is … duct tape …’ (she had attended your presentation as well and had heard your talk). As I proceeded to my seat, I saw that my airplane window literally had duct tape all around it – luckily I was seated in the aisle. I immediately summoned the flight attendant; he had a very aloof personality and said that I shouldn’t worry, that the tape was only holding the window against the inner part of the plane wall and that the ‘outer part’ was fine. (You should have seen the look on the woman’s face who was sitting in the window seat). At one point during the flight the attendant walked past us and said sarcastically, ‘Oh good, you’re still here!'”

I love it when program attendees share stories like this!

Now, I’m no aviation engineer, but I’m sure the plane was indeed safe. In this type of situation, however, I’d recommend the airline should’ve gone to great lengths to either repair the window before boarding that group of passengers, or find a replacement plane. Yes, delays would’ve been involved; but I’d argue that passengers are much more familiar with delayed flights than they are with duct taped planes. My guess is that this story will be shared many, many times, and the airline won’t be credited for taking off on time, it will be ridiculed for causing passenger alarm.

Question to consider: What are your “duct tape solutions” that erode customer trust?

Book Recommendation – The War of Art

I’m ashamed it has taken me so long to recommend one of my all-time favorite books, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield.

The title is clearly a play on The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, and it is a highly appropriate title. The “enemy,” in this case, is RESISTANCE. That is, anything that keeps us from doing our work. While Pressfield’s chosen work is writing, the principles he outlines apply just as well to anything from running a marathon, starting a business, starting a diet, or anything else that requires attention and commitment. In my world, his principles apply to any organization wishing to improve their customer service.

Here’s the key line at the beginning of the book: “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.” That line can apply to any endeavor we want to do (or even were meant to do) and what actually gets done. The gap between the two reflects the resistance succumbed to when faced with actually doing the work.

Here’s another quote that got my juices going: “Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.” (Italics are mine).

Resistance is one of the main reasons companies abandon one customer service initiative after another. When the planning is done, when the meetings are over, we have to sit down and do our work to actually implement the plan. Like the writer staring at the blank page, we become easily distracted by other “urgent” matters and never get around to doing the thing that really matters. Changing an organization takes commitment and a willingness to battle resistance on many fronts – from ourselves, our employees, our bosses, and even from our customers.

For every excuse about why an organization can’t implement this or that strategy, there’s another company who “slayed the resistance dragon” and got the work done and is better for it.

Please, please, do yourself a favor and get the book. After you’ve read it, which I’ll bet you’ll read in one sitting, send me a note with your thoughts. I’d love to hear what The War of Art inspired within you. One of my hopes is, of course, that it inspires you to beat resistance in applying the customer service principles in the new edition of my book, Unleashing Excellence: The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service. Shameless plug I know, but Unleashing Excellence really does provide you with the tools to break through the resistance you’ll face in improving your organization’s customer service.

Book Recommendation – The War of Art

I’m ashamed it has taken me so long to recommend one of my all-time favorite books, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield.

The title is clearly a play on The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, and it is a highly appropriate title. The “enemy,” in this case, is RESISTANCE. That is, anything that keeps us from doing our work. While Pressfield’s chosen work is writing, the principles he outlines apply just as well to anything from running a marathon, starting a business, starting a diet, or anything else that requires attention and commitment. In my world, his principles apply to any organization wishing to improve their customer service.

Here’s the key line at the beginning of the book: “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.” That line can apply to any endeavor we want to do (or even were meant to do) and what actually gets done. The gap between the two reflects the resistance succumbed to when faced with actually doing the work.

Here’s another quote that got my juices going: “Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.” (Italics are mine).

Resistance is one of the main reasons companies abandon one customer service initiative after another. When the planning is done, when the meetings are over, we have to sit down and do our work to actually implement the plan. Like the writer staring at the blank page, we become easily distracted by other “urgent” matters and never get around to doing the thing that really matters. Changing an organization takes commitment and a willingness to battle resistance on many fronts – from ourselves, our employees, our bosses, and even from our customers.

For every excuse about why an organization can’t implement this or that strategy, there’s another company who “slayed the resistance dragon” and got the work done and is better for it.

Please, please, do yourself a favor and get the book. After you’ve read it, which I’ll bet you’ll read in one sitting, send me a note with your thoughts. I’d love to hear what The War of Art inspired within you. One of my hopes is, of course, that it inspires you to beat resistance in applying the customer service principles in the new edition of my book, Unleashing Excellence: The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service. Shameless plug I know, but Unleashing Excellence really does provide you with the tools to break through the resistance you’ll face in improving your organization’s customer service.

When You Receive Poor Customer Service

As we get closer to the holiday season, the news is full of reports that retailers plan to hire fewer temporary workers than usual because of lower sales expectations. While this might make short-term sense to a business’s bottom line, it’s a recipe for frustration for you and me as shoppers.

Busy shopping seasons are often riddled with dismal customer service experiences, and this one will likely be no different, and perhaps worse. So, what should we do if we receive poor service? A clear option, of course, is to leave and never go back. Poor service sometimes occurs, however, in companies we actually like, and we want to go back. What then?

Here are seven tips for dealing with poor service:

1. Don’t become belligerent – Yes, sometimes customers do get their way by becoming belligerent or antagonistic. But more often, belligerence builds a wall between you and the very person you are trying to get to help you. For example, accusing an employee of being incompetent (while perhaps true) will rarely result in them wanting to assist. Insults don’t help, and besides, most of us don’t really feel good about losing control of our emotions.

2.      Express “calm frustration” – Expressing dissatisfaction or frustration is certainly appropriate; you want the person to know you’re not happy. But you also want them to know you’re a reasonable and appreciative person. Treat the employee with respect (even if you don’t feel you’re getting the respect you deserve), while at the same time letting him or her know you want something to change.

3.      Be clear about what you expect – The difference between a customer service rant and a customer service desire is huge. While the rant might feel good for the moment, desire is what will more often get you results. Tell the employee exactly what you want. “I’d appreciate it if you could focus on me for a moment.” “I’m not that tech savvy; can you tell me about the features in everyday language?” “I’ve been looking for someone to help me for quite a while. I’d appreciate it if you would help me.” “I’ve been put on hold every time I’ve called; I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t put me on hold and help me with my problem.” Take a deep breath and take a moment to think about your desired outcome.

4.      Be reasonable – In the heat of the moment, we sometimes make unreasonable demands that seem reasonable at the time. When I supervised Guest Relations at Walt Disney World, I remember guests demanding we pay for their vacation expenses (airline tickets and all) because it happened to be raining during their visit. Of course they’re frustrated, and of course we assisted them in making the most of their stay, but paying for their vacation wasn’t going to happen.

5.      Be persistent – With the previous tips in mind, don’t give up if you aren’t satisfied. If the employee you’re dealing with isn’t helping, ask to speak with a manager – and don’t take no for an answer. I’ve been told that a manager wasn’t available, and when I made it clear that I wasn’t leaving until I spoke with a manager, suddenly one became available. Again, don’t be belligerent, just be firm. And if the manager isn’t helpful, ask for the contact information of his or her boss. Asking respectfully will often result in the manager sensing your persistence and providing the help you need. At that point the manager will likely realize that it’s easier to solve your problem than to explain to his or her boss why your problem wasn’t solved.

6.      Take names – This one is especially important with issues that go beyond mere irritations. When management realizes you have documented your problem, including the names of those you’ve spoken with, they know you’re serious and that you’re willing to do what it takes to get what you want. Rarely do I have to go beyond tip 5, but when I do, this tip almost always leads to a solution.

7.      Be prepared to cut your losses – How much time is the problem worth? Sometimes it’s worth it to see the issue all the way to the end, and sometimes it’s not. Your time is valuable, and it might just make sense to throw in the towel and accept that you’re not going to be satisfied. Life is too short to tilt at windmills. But there is still one more action you can take that, while it might not get you anything, might make you feel a bit better. Check out a couple of earlier posts, “Customer Service and Twitter,” and “The Price of Poor Service.”

I hope your holiday shopping experiences this season are smooth and merry, but I’m not delusional. Frustrations are bound to appear and it’s important to be prepared to deal with the frustrations that are worth dealing with. I hope you find these tips to be helpful. I would also welcome comments that provide additional tips for dealing with poor service.

Customer Service Thought for the Day

Are your company’s processes designed for the convenience of the customer or for the convenience of the company? How would customers respond to that question?

Think about a process you can tweak (or overhaul) that will result in customers asking, “Why can’t other companies do it like yours?”