Friday, October 10, 2008

THE LOST ART OF CUSTOMER SERVICE

As I write this, Daughter #1 is winging her way to the west coast. Safe travels, Baby. She is going to San Diego for the weekend where she will attend a Naval Ball. D1's boyfriend is an Ensign in the United States Navy. He is an Officer and a Gentleman. D1 has been going crazy with preparations for the trip over the last week. Never one to prepare much in advance, she has been busy getting settled into her new career as a 6th grade teacher and living in a new state.

At the eleventh hour, it was decided that she would borrow Daughter #2's shoes for the occasion. They are a beautiful sparkly pair of golden high-heeled sandals that will be perfect for the dress that D1 is wearing. The problem was that D2 was home last weekend and the shoes were still in Tallahassee. MHS has a home-based business and has an account with a shipping company that for the sake of anonymity I will call PSU. No worries, a package and shipping label were sent with D2 when she returned to school on Sunday. She was instructed to put said shoes into the box, seal it and deliver it to the PSU store on Monday morning. D2 notified us on Monday morning that the mission was accomplished and confirmed that she had taken the package to the PSU store and placed the precious cargo into the hands of a PSU employee. There was some talk of simply putting the packing into one of the many PSU boxes throughout Tallahassee but that plan was discarded as we wanted to make sure it was scanned into the PSU system as soon as possible since the timing of delivery was critical. The PSU online system showed us that the package would be delivered to D1 no later than Wednesday giving her just enough time to get the shoes into her suitcase which would be taken with her to school the next day. The schedule was tight and she would have to leave for the airport in Charlotte straight from work.

Yesterday, we received a distress call from D1 that the shoes had not arrived. After checking the tracking online, it was discovered that an error had been made. The package had been mis-sorted and had traveled from Tallahassee to Jacksonville to North Carolina and then back to Jacksonville. The new delivery date was rescheduled for Friday, Oct 10th. This date of course would be of no use to D1 as her flight to San Diego is today, Thursday, Oct 9th. I spent much of last night on the phone with PSU trying to determine where, when and how the package could be intercepted and if there was a way to get it to D1 by this afternoon. I was instructed to call first thing in the morning as by that time, the package would no longer be in transit and they would have a better idea of what could be done.

This morning, I called PSU early and after being transferred to several departments was told that we had two options: 1. the package would be delivered to D1's home in NC on Friday or 2. They could intercept the package and it would be delivered to OG's apartment in San Diego on Friday, Oct 17th. Obviously neither was an acceptable option. I asked to speak to a supervisor. After holding for some time, I handed off the phone to MHS as the hour was getting late and I had to get ready for work. The supervisor was very polite but little help at first. He kept repeating that while they could intercept the package and re-route it for San Diego, they could do nothing about the delivery date of Oct. 17th.

Apparently the reason for this is because we selected ground rather than overnight shipping. Our reason for this was obvious: money. To ship the package overnight, the shipping charges were $64 and change. Ground was just under $12 and had a delivery date of two days which was within our plan. I don't want to sound cheap here but for a $52.00 she could have purchased a new pair of shoes. But she wanted these shoes.

MHS was relentless. He continued to ask for an explanation for why the package could not be intercepted and overnighted to California. After all, the mistake was clearly theirs. The tracking of the package was right there on line and could not be denied. The supervisor continued to tell him that he was limited to the policies put in place by his company. As I was leaving for work, I heard MHS saying that while this shipment was personal, he used PSU for business and would hate to think this was the type of service he could look forward to with critical shipments to his customers. Obviously, they had made a mistake and were doing nothing to fix it. Still, an acceptable solution was not offered. That's when MHS dropped the bomb. He simply said, "Maybe I should give my business to FedEx. Maybe they will be more accommodating to my shipping needs."

MHS called me on my cell a little while later. He said that the supervisor will take it upon himself to re-route the package to San Diego and send it over-night so that D1 will have the shoes on Saturday morning. The ball is Saturday night.

They came through in the end. (And it still remains to be seen, if the package arrives in San Diego in time) But my point is this. Isn't it sad that until being threatened with losing business to a competitor, no solution to the problem was offered. When did customer service become such a low priority? I wish this was an isolated case but sadly, it is not. I was raised in my personal life and trained in my business life that when you screw up, it's your responsibility to rectify the situation. As a nation, we have lowered our standards so low that we no longer even expect customer service. It's a rare pleasure when a clerk at a retail establishment or a check-out person at the grocery store actually engages me in pleasant conversation, counts change back to me and sends me on my way with a wish for a good day. Instead most of my transactions are made while listening to the clerk complain to a co-worker about the demands of their job or have a discussion about the party they attended the night before.

At the risk of sounding like a crotchety old woman saying, "Back in my day..."; Am I alone in saying this is not how it's supposed to be? Is anyone else as disgusted as I am with the complete lack of concern with customer satisfaction? If the economy is truly as bad as "they" tell us it is, shouldn't businesses be making customer service priority one? Mistakes are made. I understand that. I certainly make my fair share of them. But when you make a mistake, you're responsible for doing your best to make it right. Right?

As D1 told me years ago, the problem with me is that I expect all the skies in my world to be blue all the time. Maybe so. I just want to do my job to the best of my ability. I want the people who depend on me to do my job not to feel cheated. And I want everyone else to do the same. Goodness, this is starting to sound like a campaign speech, isn't it?

I am Smart Mouth Broad. And I am running for President. *wink*


Update: D1 arrived safely in the wee hours of the morning (our time). She has plans for a mani/pedi and beach time while OG is busy working today. PSU contacted MHS this morning to say the package has been intercepted. We are expecting a call to confirm it is on it's way to San Diego. Still keeping my fingers crossed. Worst case scenario, she has to buy shoes or she could go as the Barefoot Contessa. But it's the principle of the thing that gets me all......grrrrrr.

Update #2: 10/11/08 12:00pm PST. Still no shoes.

Update #3: 10/11/08 3:30pm PST. D1 got the shoes. She will not have to go to the ball as the Barefoot Contessa afterall. Better late than never. *sigh*



19 comments:

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

My friends and I often talk about the lack of customer service these days. The other day, while in line at the graocery store, I had to listen to a bag boy tell the cashier that "he had shit for brains."

Maybe I'm old too.

Reader Wil said...

That's a very appropriate title for your post! What an ordeal.
Thanks for your visit to my still Australian blog. As soon as my photos of Australia are all used I am going to write about my own country.

Vodka Mom said...

I agree totally with your title. I'm GLAD she got the shoes, but what an ORDEAL. I think you should STILL change to Fed Ex. They should have offered to do that in the beginning. bastards.

slick said...

I guess PSU figured since they are in possesion of the shoes, you guys would just settle for whatever they did.

Which is piss poor service....

Glad y'all have it partially straightened out. Let's just see if the Saturday part is right

qtpie said...

I could go on for days about the lack of work ethics in America. The company I work for isn't big, but we aren't small either. I have over 250 merchant accounts I deal with on a credit card bases. We just switched credit card processors because of all the mistakes the old one was making. Stupid mistakes, over and over again. So we have the new processor and its not much better. You have to catch everything, because it seems like they don't care if it gets done correctly or not. I'm of the mind set, if a mistake is made, fix it, don't point fingers and make sure it doesn't happen again. I guess I'm one of only a few that feels that way. And don't even let me get started on my mortgage company. I'd need to write book about those idiots. The big companies feel like they can do anything to anyone and get away with it. I strongly believe that we, the little people, need to finally say enough is enough. This 700 billion dollar bail out is just another example of big business doing whatever they want and what happens? They get money. If we did what they did, we'd be in bankruptcy court or even worse, jail. If you haven't already noticed, I'm fed up and I'm sure there are millions more just like me. When are we all going to wise up and join together and say NO MORE!

Nothing Fancy said...

Stuff like this makes me so angry. There is no such thing as customer service anymore. And like you said, no one will even offer an option to help until you threaten to take your business elsewhere. Sometimes even then, they don't care.

It's all just too much.

Jess said...

Limited to the policies put in place by his company. What a crock. When are people going to realize that THE most important thing in business is your level of service to your customers?

I followed you over here from our friend Pioneer Woman's blog, wanted to say hello :)

Jess

Smart Mouth Broad said...

PHST-*sigh*

RW-I am loving your Australian pics.

VMom-She didn't actually get the shoes yet but the update is that the supervisor call this am and said he is working on it and will call in a bit to confirm all is on track.

Slick-Yep, you're exactly right. I'm crossing my fingers.

QTPie-I guess I got you started. You should start your own blog. Sounds like you might have some pent up energy you need to express. *wink* and of course I completely agree with everything you said.

Fancy-Yep, I hear ya. I think we should all take this little discussion over to Midlife Slices house for a weekend seminar. We could probably solve all the worlds problems floating in her pool with a drink in hand and staring at our newly polished toenails.

Jess-What a crock, indeed! Hey, thanks for stopping by. It's not ALWAYS a bitch fest here (tho it seems like it the last few days) but we do have fun. Come on back again and play sometime.

Jan said...

It never ceases to amaze me how businesses this country, which "no longer produces" and has become "service oriented" can get away with such completely crappy service.

I hope she gets the shoes in time!

thistle said...

My sister had something similar happen while ordering a toy for her granddaughter from a major department store....got a different story everytime she called in, eventually they had to admit they lost it in transit(how DOES that happen)and no there wasn't another one like it anywhere in the hundreds, maybe thousands of stores this MAJOR DEPT STORE had on the planet...fortunately they managed to find another at Toys R Us at the last minute...but she was pissed. And fortunately for the store BIL didn't get involved, you should see the fit he throws at bad customer service from Tim Horton's drive thru employees...oh yeah...there's a man that get's the service he feels he's due.

Smart Mouth Broad said...

Jan-Amen, sista. I'm crossing my fingers and now my toes too.

Thistle-Even more sad when it's something for a small child that they're counting on. I remember that stress well. Your BIL sounds like my childhood memory of my dad in Kmart yelling at the manager whose name was....MR. BOOBY! Yep.

thistle said...

ROFLMAO...and i'm at work!!

what an unfortunate name!

:lol:

qsunhwwy!!..that was my word verification!!...i almost gave up *sigh*

Smart Mouth Broad said...

Thistle-Glad I could provide comic relief for your work day. So tell me, do you know how I can shorten the darn thing? Anyone?

goodfather said...

Aaaah, don't get me started!! Too late. I HATE trying to even just get to talk to customer service through the robots on the phone. They even screen out saying 'operator' now. And then, when I finally do get someone on the phone, they have NO IDEA of how to solve my problem. Sigh.

Glad she got the shoes ;). Have a good weekend!

Smart Mouth Broad said...

Goodfather-I know exactly what you mean. I usually just sit and press 0 repeatedly until someone picks up. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. UGH!

Midlife Mama said...

Yes, I couldn't agree with you more. Customer service is definitely a lost art.

One of the reasons we like to eat out at our local Chili's is that they have the best customer service around. The greeter/hostesses are always smiling, the waiter/waitresses are always friendly and upbeat. What a pleasant experience it is to eat there. As opposed to some restaurants, where they throw the plates on the table and don't even come back to refill your drinks.

Yep, I feel ya.

Smart Mouth Broad said...

Mama-We have a favorite place we like to eat too. Kinda like our "Cheers". The food is great and the service is excellent. It probably doesn't hurt that D2 used to work there either.

MLS said...

You're right. Many don't care if they service their customers or not. It's kind of becoming the way of life in America. I long for the "olden days". sigh...

Glad she got the shoes in time and didn't have to go barefoot. :))

Smart Mouth Broad said...

MLS-The truth is that MHS and I were much more upset about the whole thing than she was. Now I can't wait to see the pictures. :-)