I Guess They Didn’t Get the Memo or Did They?

My 17 year old thinks I’m a bit over the top when I’m evaluating customer service and he’s probably right. However in these two situations I’m about to describe you tell me if my perspective is in line or out of whack.

The first was my last visit to my favorite (not really) most convenient (that’s more like it) big box office supply store. Their service is usually middle of the road and every once in a while they exceed my expectations which are pretty low for this type of retail chain.

I’m in a hurry looking for a refill cartridge for my favorite pen. Can you say “needle in a haystack”? Unfortunately there is nobody in sight to help me in my quest to cross this little errand off my list. Suddenly an associate appears. She is moving faster than a speeding bullet so I kind of figure she is in the middle of something. Her eyes were fixed in a steely stare not directed towards me. As she zipped by I politely said, “Excuse me. It looks like you are in the middle of something but I was wondering if you could help me when you are through”. Are you ready for her response? “Well, I’m actually on my way to lunch. What is it that you need?”

As difficult as it is to talk while biting your tongue I managed to eek out these words, “Well I’m looking for a cartridge for my favorite pen”. My hungry helper points to the far corner of the store and says, “Head that way and Madison should be able to help you!” I turned back to say thanks (for nothing – I guess that’s just a conditioned response), and she was already on her way out the door.

Fortunately Madison was ready, willing and helpful so the experience wasn’t a total train wreck. I don’t know what this company’s vision is for customer service. It would probably be safe to say it’s not “Hamburger First”. Or “If you are on your way to lunch dodge the customer”. It’s probably something like “100% Customer Satisfaction” or “Customers Are Our #1 Priority” or some other profound statement that is plastered all over the corporate office walls. Not sure this behavior is what the CEO had in mind.

My next example may not be quite as offensive however it’s at least a customer service misdemeanor. My favorite cell phone provider or should I say the one to which I am contractually obligated, was the perpetrator. For the record, this is the second time this happened with the same employee.

Recently my cell phone stopped working so I got roped into purchasing a new one. It’s basically the same model which doesn’t mean much because I barely knew how to operate the old one. In any event I had to go in to ask a few questions on standard operation procedures.

I usually won’t enter the store until I case the joint – that’s police talk I learned from watching CSI… Seriously what I do is walk back and forth in front of the store to see if my service hero is working (that’s for another blog) and if she isn’t I don’t go in. If she is working I go in and ask for her by name. I don’t care if I have to wait 20 minutes. Dealing with her is well worth it.

Because my level of frustration with my new phone is becoming intolerable, even though my hero is not there, I bull my neck, take a deep breath swing the glass door open and head on in. Lo and behold the female employee who had gouged me, uh I mean helped me with my new “upgraded” Blackberry approaches me and asks the proverbial stupid question “May I help you?”. Doing everything I can to swallow a sarcastic response I explain my issue and she pushes a couple of buttons and presto change-o I’m good to go.

As I depart she thanks me for coming in then the ”nails on the chalkboard” request: “Oh by the way, if you happen to get a survey in the mail asking questions about your service today I hope you will give me all 5’s saying you approved of the service I provided. Have a nice day!”

Are you kidding me? Is it me or is that inappropriate? In my mind her request is just short of a bribe. What’s next? “Hey I’ll give you 5 bucks if you give me all fives!” If our little service angel put as much energy into engaging the customer as she did lobbying for a good score on the survey those scores would probably take care of themselves. This brings up an interesting question.

What’s causing this behavior?

a) Is it some sort of ill-conceived incentive contest?

b) Does she get 40 lashes with a wet noodle if she gets a lousy score?

c) Is it because she doesn’t know any better?

d) Or maybe it’s all of the above

If the answer is a, b, c, or d then I have to ask this follow up question – “Is it her fault?” Or is the company negligent? I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s the latter. At the end of the day the behavior happened – twice! Am I crazy or would this lobbying for high survey scores bother you as well? I can almost guarantee I can go in there in a week or two, interact with the same gal and she will adhere to the same script. When she does I’m flat out going to ask her – “Why do you do that? What causes you to want to lobby for high service scores? Wouldn’t it be better just to focus on providing wonderful service (like at least recognizing the fact that she’d just waited on me no more than 5 days ago)?

If you are saying this would never happen in your organization, you may want to think again. Stay tuned because now I’m all lathered up. I have to find out the answer to my multiple choice question regarding this bizarre behavior. To be continued…

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  • Rod thank you for the comment. I'm just really convinced that managers aren't taking the time with their employees to explain how important it is to make a genuine connection with the customer. The way to get all 5's is not to ask for them it's to engage me and make me feel special. I hope you have an extraordinary day Rod and again thanks for commenting. BC
  • Agree with Andy -- it's a or b -- most (not all) humans of a certain seasoning have learned not to ask for such feedback in public unless they're instructed -- the question is, is s/he more concerned about potential negative outcome (if there's no, or a poor, survey response) or prizes (for all 5s) -- either way the employer/manager has taken the easy way out rather than instilling a service environment.
  • Patrick thanks for the comment. You are so right about "wrong on so many levels". I know this particular employee has been there for a while. It's like what's worse than an employee quiting on you? An employee who quits and keeps working for you. Will you write the forward for my book "Hamburger First"? As for you Mr. Sullivan consider it done. You are the co-author! I just hope you can write better than you can dance - it won't take much, that's for sure!
  • I'm with Ptrick on the "Hamburger First" title! Can I co-author it with you? Can I huh? Can I?
  • The "Hamburger First" comment is priceless. Perhaps a great name for a book.

    I feel like I was in your shoes when you were telling both stories. Both behaviors are so wrong on so many levels.
  • Andy - my thoughts exactly. I hear ya "been there". Can you say CSI? I guess the worst part is it is such a turnoff to the customer. The challenge continues to be how do you get the front line people (the brand ambassadors) to embrace the vision? The two examples I cited here are not backwoods organizations. Thanks for the comment my man. We must connect soon. Hey I Susan and I will be cruising through Columbus on Friday Sept 17th, wondering if you and Janie might be available for lunch? Just a thought...
  • It's definitely a and isn't c because deep down she doesn't like asking because she knows she is too busy to get a 5...if she doesn't won't happen and then you are back to a and b....

    Been there....
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