My first job after getting out of the army was as a "sales coordinator"; I processed orders, tracked them through our production process, and was the "inside sales" contact for my customers. "If there's a problem, yo, I'll solve it" was pretty much the motto of my position. If for some reason we were going to miss a shipping date for an order, I needed to know in advance so I could work with our customer. Would this delay be acceptable? If not, is there another order we could push out a little so that this one could be on time? Was this a "do or die" order, and we just needed to work overtime in order to meet our commitment?
The customer may not always be right, but they're always the customer--and they are the ones who pay the bills. We needed to make reasonable, and sometimes a little bit unreasonable, efforts to keep them satisfied, to honor our commitments. I learned some very valuable lessons in this job.
First, communication is key. If I notified customers in advance of a problem (e.g., we couldn't get the raw materials to make their parts on time), they were much easier to work with than if I had waited until the shipment date to notify them that we'd be late. It would have been even worse if I didn't notify them at all, if their parts just hadn't shown up on time.
Second, if we were having problems meeting a shipping date, the customer didn't want to hear excuses, explanations, or justifications; they only wanted to hear what I was doing to work with them about fixing the problem.
I've always considered these two points to be what customer service is all about. They're how I judge my interactions with companies. And in the last two days I've been let down twice.
Almost 2 weeks ago I took my trailer to a shop--I need a new awning and want to replace my propane tanks. I was told to bring my trailer in "first thing Friday (yesterday) morning" and they'd get the job done that day. This is important because, this coming Tuesday, I'm leaving on a lengthy road trip.
I took my trailer to the shop near close-of-business on Thursday so they'd have it first thing Friday. I wasn't expected. An employee had to go check to see if the new awning they'd ordered for me had even come in, even though it was supposed to have been delivered no later than Wednesday. Eventually they found the awning, but this didn't give me a warm fuzzy. I left my trailer with them and was told I'd get a call tomorrow (Friday) when it was ready for pickup.
Knowing they close at 3:30, and not having received a call, I called them at 3:00 Friday. They'd replaced the awning, but didn't understand what "propane tanks, lines, regulator" meant on the work order. And since the person who wrote up the work order wasn't in yesterday, they just didn't do anything. So my job wasn't done on time, I wasn't contacted in advance, I found out my trailer wasn't ready at about the time I should have been picking it up. Oh, and they don't work weekends.
This is bad customer service. After I explained what was needed, they promised I could pick it up before lunchtime on Monday. You can bet I'll be calling at 9:30 or so Monday morning to make sure they're on the ball.
Next story. I wear a special contact lens that reshapes my eye as I sleep. I take it out in the morning and have 20/20 vision the next day. Well, my current lens is about a year old and now I have 20/25 vision--time for a new lens. Again, it was over a week ago when I got the ball rolling and had an eye appointment. My doctor assured me that they'd get my new lens in this past week.
No call, no nothing, so I called the office this morning. No, the lens hadn't come in, sorry. Maybe it'll come in Monday. Where's the follow-up? Did anyone even call to see if that lens had shipped? Do they just place an order and then consider the job done, they've done their part? Where is the customer service?
I'm leaving on a trip on Tuesday. If I don't have this new lens, my eye will be 20/25 for the next month. As for the trailer, even if they get it to me Monday noon, I won't have the weekend to inspect and test their work. I have to trust they did it well, and trust is in short supply at the moment.
That inside sales job taught me high standards for customer service, and these two experiences most certainly have not met my standards.
Update, 6/28/21: I called the trailer repair shop this morning to make sure it would be done by noon. When I called on Friday I asked them to ensure the new propane tanks were filled, since I wouldn't have the weekend to it myself. I was assured this morning that I could pick it up at noon with everything complete.