Seldom do I read an article, simultaneously agree with it, and experience a spike in blood pressure at the same time. It was one of those “Man, I know what you're saying” moments. Editor Robert Grace's opinion, (“Grace Notes,” Dec. 11, Page 6), evoked such a reaction.
We all, to some extent, probably have some similar experiences and stories. Here's one:
Because of events in the past two months, I have had to do something I have come to dread almost more than anything else — place customer service calls. Four of them, all to different companies. None went well. Knowing ahead of time what I was about to face, I allocated the appropriate time in my morning schedule to make the four calls. Let's see, four calls — umm — three hours. That should do it. I've never (physically) had the pleasure of going on a worldwide vacation, but I was in for a worldwide nightmare adventure, nonetheless.
My first call landed me at a customer service center in Sri Lanka, where, after describing my problem in-depth, the courteous gentleman on the other end proceeded to go over the problem — one letter at a time. You know, the good old phonetic alphabet, used more commonly to keep commercial and military aircraft from encroaching into each other's airspace.
“So, let's see, your name is “M” as in “Mike,” “A” as in “Alpha,” “R” as in “Romeo” — you get the idea. Of course, doing this phonetic alphabet thing for the whole problem I had just described to him was a bit frustrating, very time-consuming, and went no¼where.
The other calls were similarly nonproductive.
My favorite customer service experience, which Robert Grace failed to mention, is to hear the monotone, robot voice-prompt telling me that “This call will be recorded for quality purposes.” Quality? Quality? On what? As a primer on how not to provide efficient service, and lose customers in the process?
Earlier this year, an airline executive, whose name escapes me, said at a press conference addressing complaints about airline customer service: “People today cannot expect the same service they experienced 20 or 30 years ago, due to downsizing, job-combining, etc.” But, that shouldn't be our problem. We're talking simple, consistent, organized, courteous customer service, not planning the upcoming mission to Mars.
In the heady, dot-com glory, merger-crazy days of the 1990s, the corporate mantra for customer service was to “answer the phone on the first ring.”
It is only common sense, and good basic business practice. That is, if you want to stay in business. And, that's “B” as in “Bravo,” “U” as in “Uniform”...
Spring Hill, Tenn.