Archive for August, 2011

It started out simply enough…I was going to finish my spare bedroom. The purchase of a bed and bedding would complete the look I had worked on. So I headed out to store X (you will probably guess the name by the end of this post) to see what they had. Since it was a spare room, and would mostly be used be used by my grandson, I decided a twin size bed would do because the room is small.

Store X had beautiful beds priced just in my range. So I sought out a sales rep (store was NOT busy but I had to go find someone) and we started discussions. The store has an area (the pit) where you can make discounted purchases…they had twin size mattress and box springs for $99! Great! Put that with my frame order and lets write it up. OK no frames in stock will take a week to come in…no problem. Here is where the illogical fun started…mind you, I live not 5 minutes around the corner from this store.

If you buy from the pit, it is a take with you item. They will NOT deliver it. (even though they have to deliver the frame to my house…you figure THAT one out). But if you order a mattress and box spring, we will deliver it with your bed. Cost of other mattress and box spring? $100 more. On top of that, to deliver it to my house, is another $60. So to get this all delivered would cost me another $160. Not… so I order the frame, pay for it and buy the mattress and box spring from the pit, and they say they will hold it till the frame comes in and I can come pick it up. I make arrangements to have someone come help me the day it is due in so I can pick it up. So far so good. Store X calls and tells me my frame is in on Tuesday, I say I will be in Thursday to get it.

Now comes pick up day… I am working but the bedding is being picked up for me. I get a phone call that the mattress and box spring is not there…not there? But I paid for it, how can that be?  Don’t know, it’s just not there. They sold them all. Now I call the store.

After telling my problem to 3 different people (and they made me tell the story before they told me they couldn’t help me and passed my call along)…my call ends up in the café! Typical move when someone does NOT want to deal with a problem..bounce it somewhere impossible and hope you don’t call back. The poor girl in the café did not know how to transfer calls but spoke to someone, got me a number and did nicely ask me to call back on that number.

Of course I do! And he question I get is ‘What is this about?’….my response? ‘Furniture…this is a furniture store…’ because by now I have had it. Well I guess that got their attention because the call promptly went to a manager, who quickly threw his employee under the bus saying he never tagged the bedding. So I ask the manager how they can resell something that is already sold…his response ‘What do you want me to do, I can’t make a bed. It isn’t here there is nothing I can do.’ Then he asks ME what is it is I want. Poor…Poor…Poor. (I found out later that had already charged all of this to my credit card the day I ordered it before I accepted receipt of goods..). OK so in the end I received a $50 gift certificate but still had to go back to the store and get the merchandise when it came in 7 days later… Will I go back to that store? Perhaps to spend the $50 card but that may be it.

How Could This Be Done Better?

Senior Management – empower your managers to make decisions on customer service issues on the spot. Work with them to teach them  to use the best information they have in front of them when the issue occurs and to resolve it on the spot. Sometimes, you can break the rules (if not regulatory) to keep the customer. Remember is costs less to keep a customer than to keep finding new ones.

Do you review customer service issues? Do you discuss them with managers and employees? Do you ask for comments on how it could have been handled better?

Test your managers. Do you use a secret shopper? How many managers are hired or even promoted and not given the backing and/or training to help them succeed in their new job position? Do you have rules they have been trained to? Do you set expectations and measure against them? Do you give feedback to your managers? I guess what I am saying is be involved…never get so far away ‘from the line’ that you don’t know what your managers are facing every day.

Managers – don’t hide from issues. Issues are opportunities for improvement. NEVER throw employees under the bus when errors are made. Your customers don’t care WHO made the mistake they just know one was made, and truly aren’t you ultimately responsible for your employee? A simple ‘I am sorry, we made a mistake. Let us try to make this right for you…’ would have worked wonders, but to come at a customer with belligerence is just wrong. In reality several mistakes were made…not only was the inventory not tagged as sold but apparently all good practice of reconciling inventory against sales broke down…and I am sure that was not the salesman’s fault! So instead of dealing with the issue and then looking for the true root cause, you play the blame game. And that very likely offends the customer even more.

Also managers, make sure your employees are trained well. Make sure they know how to use their computer equipment, phones systems, and anything else they use to do their jobs. No one likes being bounced all over the place when they call a number. And if you do have to transfer someone, stay on the line until the person answers on the other end so you KNOW the call is passed correctly. How many times has the call been transferred knowing full well the other person is not in their office. Not cool…and people know these games go on, so it’s no wonder they are so stressed by the time they get someone who can help.

NEVER ask a customer what they want. Listen to their issue and offer something to take the sting out of that particular issue. It’s not a one size fits all. They want satisfaction, they want you to make some sort of compensation for their aggravation, time, and for being put out.Your company has policies to deal with these issues…follow them. If you think you are saving your company money by not offering to make it right, you probably just cost them a customer. Even if you are not sure or empowered to make it right on the spot, tell them you are going to find out what you can do, nicely put them on hold and get an answer!

In business, we exist because of our customers. For every 1 person who will talk about their issue, there are 10 who say nothing to you but do tell their friends. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising. And in this day of digital media, social media, and every quick way of communicating, you can bet it spreads like wildfire. Just as we teach in social media, it is all about being real. Be genuine, be concerned and work to resolve the issue to the customer’s satisfaction.

I wish I could say I was satisfied with the outcome…after all I got something out of it didn’t I? I really didn’t want that… I wanted an apology and I wanted them to deliver the mattress and box spring since my arrangements to do it myself (which I explained to them) were now for nothing. I was now going to have to get the bedding myself. For the 5 minutes around the corner from my house, the best thing they could have done was deliver it to my home. Customer satisfied. Instead they gave me something easy for them to do, and potentially would create more sales for them when I go in to use the gift card. It’s easy to offer a gift card and be done with it…I would bet you the entire mess up went no further after that call was finished.

Work to find areas of improvement based on customer needs. Talk to your employees…they are on the front line. They know what is going on every single day. They are the eyes are ears of your company. Involve them and you will have employees who have ‘bought into’ your vision and can help carry it forward every single day.