Monday, October 21, 2013

How Can I Help You

Courtesy of Federal Express
A man entered a Federal Express office minutes before closing time. He had a package that "absolutely, positively had to be there overnight." The last truck had already left with the last load of the day and was on the way to the airport to be sorted and loaded. Undeterred by this minor technicality, the clerk accepted the package from the man and assured him his package would arrive at its destination on time. He then called a messenger service to take the package to the airport sorting facility. His second call was to the sorting facility letting them know a last minute package was on its way. Unfortunately, the plane leaving for the package's final destination had just taken off. The clerk, made one other call; he chartered a plane to make sure that package made it to its destination on time, as promised. The next day, the package was indeed where it needed to be. What happened to the clerk? Was his boss angry by the exorbitant cost of sending this lone package? I mean really! A messenger fee, a chartered plane! No. The clerk received thanks from upper management and a promotion. Why? Because this clerk took responsibility, took initiative, took ownership of the company's motto.

Whether or not this is a true story or an urban legend, it shows what true customer service is all about. All too often companies use customer service as a means to shrug off their customers. How many times have you called for assistance and received a phone tree? A mechanical woman or man offering opportunities to press 1 or 2 or to repeat these options, press 9. En EspaƱol, marque ocho. How many times have these options not been even close to the reason you called?

My favorite is when you finally reach a live human being. After you give them your vital statistics and information you hope they will now be able to help you. Isn't it disappointing when they start reading from a script? And then when they transfer you, the new person starts all over again with the same questions. Arg! I am not angry with the person I'm speaking to. He or she is simply following the guidelines and the company's policies and culture. I am frustrated with their inability to really provide customer service. And sadly, perhaps it is today's culture that has forgotten what it means to be helpful. My recent run it left me sad and disappointed with today's concepts of serving the customer.

So I asked myself, what would have happened if the first person I talked to at the USPS had taken initiative to locate my missing package? What if the customer service people at the USPS had taken ownership of the situation and worked on actually solving the problem instead of parroting the tracking information I got online already? Would my package have arrived any sooner than it did? No, probably not. But they may have been able to tell me where it was, specifically as opposed to some vague "departed destination" with no update for 12 hours. This was an overnight package for heavens sake! And perhaps, if the customer service person had placed a few calls such as, what plane was it on? when did it depart? why was an overnight package placed on a 2-day plane? Perhaps, someone may have taken initiative and gotten the package on the correct plane and it would have arrived in the evening.

Sure, the Post Office has a money back guarantee if the overnight package doesn't get there overnight. But companies that do that are missing the mark. Their customers are, yes, angry about paying for something they didn't get, but they are MORE upset about missing the original promise. Overnight means it needs to be there the next day. Thanks for my refund, but because of you, your lack of service, your lack to uphold your promise of overnight, I missed out on my promise. I can't get that back.

What have been some of your customer service run-ins? Any good stories?

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