Monday, September 09, 2013

Two Tales of Customer Service

Those who know me best, especially from a professional standpoint, know I am a believer of excellence in customer service.  In fact, one of my mantras to my team is "excellence in customer service."  I encountered two recent customer service fails that actually turned out to be a benefit for me.  

Tale #1 - When my Dad passed away, he had pre-arranged his funeral at a local home that is part of a larger corporate network in the area.  It made it much easier for me to take care of things since that was already in place.  But, since my Dad was a long-time Mason and Grand Master of the state of Kentucky, he did a lot (read: hundreds) of Masonic funerals, hence I've been exposed to the funeral business for quite a while.  My Dad could walk into any funeral home in town and everyone knew him...and respected him.  When my Mom passed away, we had her at another funeral home, though also part of this large corporate network.  The service was impeccable.  I don't know if it was because when my Dad walked in, everyone buttoned up or what, but it was painless during a tough time of pain.  

Sadly, I didn't have the same experience this time around.  Oh, it wasn't awful, and they did take care of the main essentials, but dropped on some major issues that I felt were important.  Communication was lacking so when my family arrived for our private visitation, I had to recount all the arrangements again.  My Stepmom hadn't seen my Dad in probably three weeks, and I had no idea her reaction once she saw him. I wanted her to have time to adjust to that before visitors started arriving.  I had to push the funeral director to do this.  Second, many people sent flowers and other things to the funeral home...some I probably missed.  When we came back from the cemetery to collect the flowers and items we wanted to take with us, I noticed the cards were still on everything.  I started retrieving them and realized that there were some arrangements taken to the cemetery.  At Mom's passing, the home collected all the cards and gave them to us upon our arrival back after the service.  Now, I'm not sure everyone who sent something was appropriately thanked.

I was told I'd receive a survey and I did...and was honest.  So shortly after, I got a call to discuss my comments.  I was honest and fair, and told them I was doing this to help future customers.  If I could be a funeral concierge for innocent people who have no idea what to expect, I would.  The best I can do is let the funeral home know how they can have excellent customer service.  A few days later I received a thank you card in the mail from them and two gift cards from Cheesecake Factory.  I love free meals, but I certainly hope that their customer service improves as a result.

Tale #2 - This past Saturday, I met my friend, Christie, for dinner.  I was swimming in homework after a week (and still!) no internet at home and working from my tethered mobile phone hotspot or at Starbucks and needed a break.  Our server was a sweet guy, but didn't seem the sharpest knife in the drawer.  We placed our orders and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  He came to our table and said that something happened and our order disappeared in the system and asked for it again.  He said they'd put a rush on the order and that our meal would be taken care of.  Well, sweet!  Free meal!  So we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  He stopped by to see if the manager had been by and we said no.  And we waited some more.  Then the manager brought us our food.  No "sorry about your wait" or anything.  But it was free, so yummy.  Later the manager came by to see how things were and apologized for the delay and said "Dessert is on us!"  After he walked away, we looked at each other like "huh?"  Later the server came by and declared the same thing....dessert was free.  Still baffled, we just smiled and nodded.  Once we were finished, the server came to see what we wanted for dessert.  We told him we didn't want anything.  But he kept pushing.  We said, "No, but thanks."  Then he brought us our bills.  Hmm.  Being happy we just got food, we put in our cards and just wanted to pay and get out of there.  A discount or comping our beverage might have been good, though.  As we waited for the server to pick up our bills, the manager came by again pushing the free dessert.  We kindly said no.  And he.just.kept.pushing.  That's when I was done.  I said, "Well, quite frankly, your server told us the meal would be free.  Obviously as you can see, we're willing to pay, but we weren't told we'd be paying for the meal and getting a free dessert."  The manager wasn't happy and said to take our cards back and he'd discuss it with the server.  He said the server didn't have the authority to say that.  Ok, well, you got more problems then your server.

Customer service is a dying art.  If I could construct the dream consulting job, it would be working with companies to make them 100% client focused.  Amazingly your revenues improve when that happens.

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