Several months ago I told you about several customer service adventures I had recently experienced. Some good, some bad, some exceptional, and even one that was ethically questionable. Here are a few more, following the same categorization of the previous post:
[The Good] Those of you that have discovered the ability to purchase cars over the internet are already aware of how different… and almost pleasurable… it can be. You also get a great deal by simply contacting the internet sales guy at several dealerships and waiting for the best offer to come in. Some dealerships, like Lexus in Monterey, California, take it to an even higher level. The purchasing process was so simple and painless it was almost scary. Impeccable communication, and a few days later the freshly-washed car is delivered and there’s a five minute signing ceremony. Just a little bit different than the high-pressure techniques you see on King of Cars. A few days after that there is a follow-up call, then a follow-up survey.
- Lesson: Great service is pretty easy to achieve, and the impression it leaves is lasting.
[The Bad] Unfortunately experiences with cars are not always so pleasant. About seven months ago I purchased a new vehicle from a reputable European brand, which will remain confidential. The vehicle performed great for a few months, then it started to experience a significant safety problem… by suddenly decelerating from 65 to 25 on the highway and then not being able to get above 25 again. Each time… four times… it had to be towed to the shop, and it has now spent almost seven weeks there. This last time I told them I’d had enough, it was time to call it a yellow fruit, and get me a replacement vehicle. They agreed to consider it, which is when the true pain begins. It turns out that the service side of the company is run separately from the dealership side, which is run separately from the main company. Each independently wanted to help me, but each had a very hard time talking to each other… so the matter doesn’t move forward unless I push via nasty phone calls. I’ve about run out of patience and am considering legal action.
- Lesson: Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Yes you may have different divisions and operations, but to your customer you are a single brand. Your internal squabbling and communication problems can kill the reputation of your brand.
[The Bad] My recent United flight from Chicago to LA was delayed by a few hours, causing me to miss the connection with a puddle jumper on the same airline to take me to my final destination. This type of thing happens, and I’m a patient guy who would much rather have a delay so a maintenance problem could be fixed instead of it being ignored. The airline immediately offered to pay for dinner and put me up in a hotel with a guaranteed seat on the first flight out in the morning. That’s fine… there’s not much more they could do. But then the bus took several stranded passengers and flight attendants to their hotels… first dropping the flight attendants off at a very nice Crowne Plaza before delivering the rest of us to a rather run-down La Quinta. I’m not a hotel snob and all I really needed was a clean bed, but the image of happy flight attendants being delivered to a much nicer hotel will stick with me for a while.
- Lesson: Impressions matter. Yes your employees are important, but make sure your customers are treated just as well. They effectively pay your employees.
[The Exceptional] A couple months ago I took the family to Italy for a couple weeks. As an admitted tech geek with an internet addiction, I rented a Blackberry from Worldroam so I could stay in touch with emails and data… in addition to phone calls. I received the phone prior to leaving, programmed it correctly, and upon landing in Rome I proceeded to check for emails… and nothing happened. Over the next week I talked to their customer service several times and they tried hard to get it to work, but no luck. Luckily Tuscany and the Sorrento coast helped cure me of my affliction and after a couple days I didn’t miss being out of contact. I returned home, returned the Blackberry, and thought nothing of it. Until a couple weeks ago when I received a call from Worldroam saying they had came across my account during a routine review of customers, realized I had had some problems, and had decided to refund my rental cost. That immediately turned a negative experience into a positive one.
- Lesson: Unexpected positive customer service can be incredibly powerful, rapidly changing perceptions.
[The Ethically Questionable] A couple days ago, out of the blue, I began receiving a deluge of emails from a new "Google Group" called "Value Networks", moderated by John Maloney. It appears than in an attempt to quickly grow his group he added over 600 people to the email list without their permission. Unfortunately in doing so he added my (ironically) antispam forwarding email addresses, so the "unsubscribe" link won’t work, he apparently doesn’t want to unsubscribe me directly, filling out the abuse and support forms on Google don’t seem to create a response, and there is no way to talk to a human at Google. When many people began complaining, John wrote the following:
"Value networks can be downright unsettling for people that have not yet embraced systems thinking and complex network models. If they have not accepted complete responsibility for their role, relationships and exchanges it can be confusing, disorienting. For some, the transition is not an easy one. If you are expecting an old-fashioned paternalistic Listserv model, where you have no clear role and little/no responsibilities, then your transformation will need more attention."
Huh? I guess I’m a simpleton as that is gibberish to me. And relatively insulting that "my transformation will need more attention."
Lesson: Value and respect your customers… especially if you run a "value network". Don’t force yourself on them.
Ok, a little venting has helped me feel better.