Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Customer Service Crises

     Look closely at the picture to the right. The writing on the package is probably too small for you to see, but it says "10 Fiber Pots." I counted, recounted, and had Camille count, and if you look closely enough to count, too, you'd notice there are just 8 peat pots. Huh? False advertising? Guy stacking the peat pots doesn't know how to count to 10? Guy puttin' stack of peat pots in plastic not payin' attention? What gives? So, this is a trip back to Target - sans receipt, a BIG NO-NO for frequent Target shoppers, to swap this crazy package of peat pots out for a package of 10 - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Thank you very much!
     Ugh....the hassle, time and gas wasted. I've been trying to stay out of Target as much as possible in an attempt to stick to my budget. This last few weeks I've had multiple issues with extra trips, time, gas, and frustration due to customer service issues. Have I ever revealed that this is a real sore spot for me? Do you want to see me really blow it? Become rude, demanding, argumentative and quite obnoxious? Well, customer service issues tend to expose all that ugliness in me. Yuck! I'm usually aware of this and have gotten a little better at being polite and patient in dealing with all these various issues over the years. And I have really probed my heart and mind to extricate what is at the core of these expectations I have, this entitlement mentally that oozes from me, this sense of justice I vigorously pursue in a sinful manner. I haven't quite figured it out yet, but I'm determined to get better at handling these issues in a way that pleases God. I have a ways to go.
     A recent conversation with a friend of mine who had lived in Brazil for two years helped to enlighten my perspective. Customer service in Brazil is well, um, NON-EXISTANT. Some expensive item breaks after a month? Oh well. Too bad. There's no recourse, no one to complain to. No "I'd like to speak to your manager, please." Nada. Zip. Out of luck.
     So, here are some "lowlights" (as opposed to highlights) from the last couple of run-ins with exasperating customer service issues I've encountered:

1) An hour or so spent at Verizon kiosk with paperwork in hand to get an employee discount. A month later, no discount applied. Huh? "We have no recollection of ever getting the paperwork."
2) Escrow statement reflecting a loss of over $300. Some research yields incompetence and untruths told (or shall I just be blunt and say: the escrow officer lied to me and then denied it!).Unpleasant conversation with loan officer's manager and I squeak out of him $100 recovery for incompetence. He only yielded the $100 bucks when I told him the awesome ladies at Bank of the West had made some mistakes in the past with my account, but were always sweet, helpful, and quick to fix them. I love those ladies! They strive for excellence in their job. I'm a loyal customer because of it. The guy kind of got the idea that just getting the job done is not adequate enough to generate customer loyalty, but doing  the job well.
3) Going back to a store the next day after being over-charged for two items on a small shopping trip. After  asking for something for my trouble, being told bluntly "NO." I argued and was rather demanding. I later had to call back and apologize to the guy. He was so shocked that I apologized it was actually funny to me (although I only laughed while retelling the story later). I don't think he's used to sincere apologies where I made no excuses. I just fessed up to being rude and said "I'm sorry."
4)My Ipod Touch completely died, was totally unresponsive to any of my "touches" to get it to turn on, the day after my last post. $200 and 37 days after I bought it. A trip to Glendale later, well over an hour of my time, and about $4 in gas, I got a new IPod. I asked for something for my trouble. The 24 year old, grungy-looking manager coldly says "NO. I can't do that." I respond, knowing full well that the multi -million dollar Apple Corporation can spring a $5 ITunes card my way, by saying, "You can do that. You just choose not to. I understand. Thank you." I handled myself so much better than my last run-in and didn't feel the need to call back and apologize AT ALL. Wow! Maybe I am making some progress!
      And then of course, I must add that CVS Pharmacy on Foothill  in Pasadena totally rocks! I had a prescription I picked up and because my pharmaceutical company's computer was down I had to pay full price to get the medicine. I complained, but knew that it wasn't the pharmacy's fault. I came back the next morning to get reimbursed and the computer was still down. Ugh! So, later I send Tim to get our refund and he returns home with the refund and a $25 gift card for our trouble from CVS. Oh...thank you! And then several days later I'm picking up another prescription and the pharmacy manager sees me and comes over to apologize for all my trouble several days ago. Mind you, this whole computer fiasco was not CVS's fault in any way. I was blown away! SO impressed! I felt valued and cared for as a customer. And I'll tell everyone I know about it.I will certainly continue to shop at CVS pharmacy.
     In our American free competition, capitalist society," the land of the brave and the home of the free", that's how it works, right? Word of mouth. No better, or cheaper,  advertising than that. But I have to come back to the fact that in all my interactions with people I am an ambassador for the Gospel. I am a representative for Christ. How I respond in all of these situations matters a great deal. I believe there is a place to seek compensation for inadequacy, incompetency, or rude handling by a business, but at what cost? In what manner? These are the questions I believe God will help me with. As I return to Target to exchange those peat pots today, no doubt God will give me another opportunity to practice patience and self-control. Quite honestly, I'm not looking forward to it. C'est la vie.


foutfolk said...

Quite funny post! I find myself in the same boat. I can NOT tolerate incompetence in customer service issues. If I can learn it through observation and practice, a company can require it from their employees.

I hear you when you say that you need to honor God in your actions and attitudes. But most of the time, you get things done in situations like that when you are forceful, demanding, and quite rude. It sort-of "snaps them in shape" so to speak.

Out here I haven't had any CS issues like I had in Ca. Don't know why . . . but I am not complaining. And I feel for you . . .and I am raising my fist and shouting "GO GIRL" even if only metaphorically. :) Now I shall repent. :)

19lt70 said...

Thanks so much for the sentiment! It really helps. I'm glad the midwest folks have been good to you.

Kit Fisher said...

I have found that when I deal with customer service, I get the no's much more often than my husband. There is something about being a male that "makes things happen." Usually, if I get that "no," I'll have Bill take over. He usually gets his way with being firm but w/o rudeness.

As for the peat pots, I counted mine, too, to make sure there were a dozen as stated on the package. All was accurate!