Customer Service Is Your Competitive Advantage
Americans have started to get used to mediocre customer service and it is a shame. Personally, I am getting angrier every day with the lack of customer service I am getting. With this economy, one would think that businesses would step up their service to their customers as a way to obtain more business.
Example #1 - AT&T
I signed up for unlimited long distance with AT&T over a year ago. For some reason – probably a computer error – many AT&T customers were getting charged 49 cents a minute despite the fact that they signed up for unlimited long distance. McKenzieHR was one of those charged by the minute. When the June bill looked unusually high, I contacted AT&T. As usual, the automated attendant gave me a number of options that did not apply to my situation. Since the automated attendants are now voice activated, I kept saying, "I want to speak to someone" and "Speak to a representative." The AA (Automated Attendant) lady kept telling me that she could not understand my request. I got so frustrated that I actually started raising my voice at the AA lady.
When I finally got to speak with a live person, I was told that I was over-billed by $400 over the last few months. My current bill was $350. The LL (Live Lady) told me I had to pay the entire amount and my credit would be realized over the next few billing cycles.
How is it that one of the largest high tech companies in the world cannot give a small business immediate credit for their billing mistakes? When I told the customer service representative that that her response did not pass the common sense test, she actually agreed. Then she told me I could withhold payment without a penalty. Gee thanks, AT&T overcharges me and I do not have to pay a penalty. Maybe I should charge AT&T a penalty for overcharging me and for my time to straighten out their mistake? But the question is,
"Why did I have to fight for my right not to pay in the first place? AT&T should have been apologizing and doing what they could to make it right – not telling me to pay my bill anyway because their computers can’t handle it."
If this were a company without the long history of AT&T, I’d begin to wonder if this Is this another scam perpetrated by a greedy company to get more money from its customers? In today’s world it is difficult to differentiate between a legitimate mistake and an outright case of fraud.
Example # 2 - The Hilton Garden Vacation Club
I was facilitating an executive retreat for a client in the Hilton Garden Vacation Club across from Sea World in Orlando. My client reserved a block of rooms for the participants who were assigned to specific rooms prior to their arrival. When Chyrle, my wife, and I checked in at 5:00 on a Friday evening, we were told my room was not ready. First of all, it was 5:00 p.m. on a Friday, so why was the room not ready? Then we asked if we could take a room of another individual who had not arrived yet. After 20 minutes of typing on the computer the front desk clerk was finally able to give me the key to room 1018, which was originally assigned to a guy by the name of Jim. The only thing is, they never took Jim’s name off the original room assignment. When Jim checked in, he was given a key to room 1018 too. Not only that, but a third guest was also given a key to room 1018. Jim and the other guest saw suitcases in the room and went back to the front desk to get a different room – preferably one that was vacant.
During the weekend, I wanted to charge things to my room. You guessed it. When they found out I was not Jim, I had to go through the third degree and wait about 10 minutes for them to allow me to charge my room.
"I’m sorry sir, but a man named Jim is assigned to room 1018."
"No." I replied. "I am in room 1018 and my name is Bob."
"No sir, Jim is in room 1018."
"Well my name is Bob and I am not Jim and I assure you that there is no Jim in room 1018. What do I have to do to prove to you that I, Bob McKenzie and my wife, Chyrle are in room 1018?"
The clerk made a call and approved the charge to my room.
Once I bought coffee and the other time cold drinks. By the time I got back to the room, the coffee was cold and the cold drinks were lukewarm.
Example 2A - Hilton
Like most hotels, the Hilton has a coffee maker in the room with coffee packets to brew coffee. My wife and I like to drink coffee and at one point, I walked through the lobby and asked for a couple of coffee packets. The front desk clerk told me I had to call housekeeping. I did not think anything of it until I was half way back to my room. Then I thought to myself, "Shouldn’t the front desk clerk have called housekeeping for me?" Or better yet, "Why didn’t the front lobby have a box of coffee packets behind the counter to give to people who ask?" After all, they have toothbrushes, shaving cream and disposable razors. Why not coffee packets? Hmmm.
Neither of these examples would be enough for me to not do business with AT&T or the Hilton, but wouldn’t it be great if I came away feeling good about either of the above experiences. In fact, if the customer service rep at AT&T had said, "I am sorry, sir. I will fix this right away," I would have felt much better. However, I would not have felt as though I had received excellent customer service, because this is the response I deserved. AT&T messed up the bill – not me.
As for the Hilton, I would not have thought better of them if they did not screw up my room assignment or had coffee packets at the front desk as this is what I would expect the Hilton to do. Is Paris is starting to run the place?
As consumers, we have been conditioned to accept less service and to fight for our rights as customers. Think of the example of pumping gas. We have accepted that we will have to pump our own gas – but only if we pre-pay. We also have to check our own oil and clean our own windshields. This was not always the case. All of this used to be done by the gas station attendant.
Look At Your Operations
Do you have any of those silly procedures that may be easier for you, but are annoying to your customers? Look around, notice facial expressions of your customers. Listen to your employees and asked them what your customers are saying about you.
"We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make." -Marion Wright Edelman