By Margo Chevers
You Never Know Who You're Serving when customers turn irate.
I think of myself as a reasonable person. It takes a lot to upset me, but upset I am.
A number of years ago, I bought a new television set. I had seen a flyer from Lechmere's that had TV's on sale. I called, got through the voice mail menu and asked the salesperson who answered, if the particular model advertised was available.
No, it wasn't but another, equally as good was at only $20 more.
I went to the store and examined a number of TV's. A knowledgeable, helpful salesman approached and patiently answered my questions. Finally, I made my choice and paid for it. I asked if they would hold it for me while I did some further shopping and was told that of course they would.
I was pleased with myself, with the store and with the purchase I'd made.
When I picked up the TV, it was so big, the young man who brought it out to the car had to take it out of the box to get it into my car.
My son brought it into the house for me and started to set it up when he asked, "Where's the antenna?"
My first thought was, "Oh no, it was left in the box."
I called the store to check. A young woman answered and said she'd put me through to the appropriate department. The on-hold music blared uncomfortably. I held the phone away from my ear when suddenly I heard the dial tone! I'd been disconnected. I re-dialed, went through the voice mail menu again, got the same young woman who said she'd put me through to "George". The loud music again irritated my ears as I waited and waited and waited for "George" to answer the phone. As the minutes ticked by, my irritation grew at a rapidly escalating rate. When he didn't answer the phone, I hung up and re-dialed. Again, I got the voice mail menu (which I now had memorized), punched in the correct extension, got the ringing of the phone, interrupted with short bursts of loud music, followed by more ringing which alternated with the loud music in my ear over 12 times.
I was now an irate customer. In less than 5 minutes I had been transformed from a very happy customer, into one of those crazy customers you dread speaking to. When the phone was finally answered, I let loose on the poor, unsuspecting salesperson. I told him that I had been disconnect, put on hold, ignored, gone practically deaf, and I was now VERY angry. He placidly replied, "That's because we're busy, Ma'am. We have a lot of customers here today."
"I don't care!" I loudly proclaimed - my son, who had walked into the room at that moment, looked at me as though I had turned into a stranger in front of his eyes. He is unaccustomed to seeing me lose my temper.
"I am your customer and I am not getting good service." I then explained irately about my missing antenna. He asked me what size TV and I told him 27", he said that no 27" TV comes with an antenna.
Of course this put me over the top. I went from being an irate customer to the customer from hell. Why hadn't I been told?
Furious, I made another trip to the store and asked for the manager who cynically informed me that he was surprised to hear a complaint about the TV department. The defensiveness of the manager was the last thing I wanted to hear while I was still in a state of anger.
He didn't do anything to assuage my temper. He told me that everyone today had cable TV, therefore there's no need to include antennas. I told him that I for one don't have cable. I explained it might be a good idea to ask customers if they had cable.
He then asked a salesperson to find me an antenna. It looked like two wires attached by a plastic tripod. I asked how effective this would be and was told that it wouldn't be very effective but a "sound amplified" antenna would be what I needed.
Bottom line, I ended up paying for a $62.00 antenna.
No discount, no heartfelt apology, no attempt to make me feel that I was an important customer. But, just like most customers that get less than deserved service I got my revenge. Irate customers tell on average, 10-20 other people about the bad service they receive. I have already told many audiences and now am sharing this in my newsletter.
I started out as a reasonable customer, I would have cheerfully bought the antenna, but because of the chain of events, it brought out my evil twin. Not my most flattering nor most comfortable mode of behavior.
Contrast this incident to an experience I had, that Marty at the Hyatt Hotel in Austin, TX handled.
During a stay in that hotel, I was woken up through out my first night's stay by an intermittent whooshing noise I couldn't identify. When I got up the next morning and walked into the bathroom the toilet greet me with the same noise that had annoyed me all night.
I called the front desk who sent an engineer to the room. In explaining the situation and how it had woken me during the night, Marty, the engineer, gave me a pass to the restaurant and told me that breakfast was on him. He said, "No one should be woken during the night by a noise."
I have to say that his response was surprising to me. At most hotels I stay at the engineer would have to get permission to give away a meal.
His service attitude made my stay at the Hyatt memorable.
P.S. I told everyone else in attendance at the meeting and now over 1,500 more through my newsletter and since I'm posting this on the web, how many more will read it? Remember: You never know who you're serving.
Margo Chevers, author of the books STOP the BS (bad service), What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up? and How to Get Up on a Down Day has been providing sales and customer service seminars and consulting to a diverse cross-section of industries for the past 15 years. To receive her free 10 top tips for exceptional customer service, call (800) 858-0797 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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