5th December 2009

Customer “Service”?

By Get Lippie

 Why is it that sometimes, experiencing good customer service can be almost more shocking than experiencing bad?

Recently, in the space of just 24 hours,  I was exposed to two horrific examples of rude, obnoxious and – in the case of one, especially – just pain humiliating behaviour from shop assistants when I was attempting to buy beauty products to review on Get Lippie.  Now, bad service sometimes happens. Sadly, that’s more or less a given these days, but what  found deeply interesting was what happened after the events, and how things were dealt with by the Customer Service departments of both stores. Now, I know I like to test things out in twos, but I think my dedication to this has gone a little above and beyond in this situation!

Store One:

Incident: I was “shushed” by a shop assistant when attempting to buy a hair product at an extremely high end department store.

My Reaction: Anger. Because I hadn’t, actually, said anything. I left the store without buying anything.

Customer Services Reaction: After chatting, slightly jokingly, with a couple of people on Twitter about the incident, the Store Tweeps got in touch and sent me a link to the store online complaints log. Within one week of my registering my dissatisfaction, I had a letter from the store apologising, and an invitation to chat face to face with the head of the department.  I went along to meet with the dept manager, and was treated to a private tour of the beauty hall in her company, had lots of chats with the staff,  and basically had all my fears and misgivings about this particular section cut off before they had a chance to fester.

Outcome: Impressed, ultimately.  The store immediately owned up, admitted that they knew there were particular problems in that specific area, and went out of their way to ensure that my next experience with them was a pleasurable one, and I wasn’t left feeling like I’d been an inconvenience in any way.  I’ve been back to the store several times since.

Now, let’s compare and contrast that with Store Two:

Incident: Checkout assistant in a expensive organic grocery/lifestyle store being rude, sarcastic, and eventually shouting – across a busy queue – at me.  Then she was seen using a phrase that rhymes with “ducking ditch”, and giggling with her colleagues.  This because, I’d mentioned to her, when packing my bags, that there were some glass bottles in the bottom of the basket, and she might want to pack them separately.

My Reaction:  Anger, humiliation, and – to my shame – a few tears.

Customer Services Reaction 1 – the night of the incident:  Customer service staff member nowhere to be seen, so another checkout assistant stood in for them.  They listened to what had happened, said it would be dealt with, gave me a glass of water and … disappeared.  My details weren’t taken, nothing. And I’d been abandoned, visibly upset, in the store restaurant, to boot.

Customer Service reaction 2 – instore complaint: a few days after the incident, I popped into the shop to let them know I wasn’t entirely happy with the way the situation had been handled at the time.  Full details were taken, very professionally, and I was assured the Customer service manager would be in touch within two days.

A week later, I emailed to say no one had been in touch.  I got a phone call saying someone would be in touch.

Two weeks later, I emailed to say no one had been in touch.

A day or two later, I got an email from the customer services manager saying he would deal with it when the staff member got back on rota, sorry for the inconvenience yada, yada, yada yada, but systems were systems …

An email conversation followed where I got the impression that, whilst the customer service manager was sorry he hadn’t been in touch, the store didn’t seem all that bothered about what had happened, and I was merely around to aggravate them.  Then, in one of the emails, it was mentioned that, at some point, the checkout person should have to sort out this situation personally, and turn my “negative experience” into a “positive” one.  I think it’s fairly safe to say I was boggling at this thought slightly, but, hey ho.

This Tuesday (bear in mind this incident happened on 15th October), I was still waiting for this “personal resolution” to come about when I mentioned the name of the store on Twitter (you may be seeing a pattern here) and wondered if I should blog about the issue.  Reaction was an overwhelming yes!  I also got a tweet from the store tweep asking me to send the sorry saga details to them, so I did, and copied in my email to the customer service person I’d been dealing with previously.

He emailed me back within an hour of this happening – rather fractiously – stating that he thought the issue was closed, that I’d “refused” goodwill gestures and that he was at his wits end on how to deal with the situation under those circumstances.

Now, I’m no genius, but I genuinely think it’s actually physically and mentally impossible to refuse something that has never, actually, been offered. Am I right?  I was offered a glass of water, and I’d accepted that, so I wasn’t entirely sure what the gentleman was talking about, and mentioned as much.

I was invited back to the store on Thursday, and met with the customer service person in question, which, quite unlike the store mentioned in case one was a bit awkward, I’d had a long time to lick my wounds, and, well, this guy sounded  … bad tempered. In the end though, after a chat where we discussed this issue, and he assured me that the store rota system has been changed so that there is never a time where there isn’t someone from customer services on duty it got better.

Now, the main thing that has bugged me about this affair is that up until over a month after the situation, no one took responsibility for the issue, and no one was interested in my communications with them, it was only after I got in touch with their Texan head office was it resolved. I’m assured that this isn’t usually the case, and I believe them, but … it still leaves a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. 

NOTE: Both this issues have now been resolved, this post hasn’t been written in order to further any of these complaints, I just thought the comparison in customer service styles was interesting.  Because of this neither of the stores have been named in this piece.  And, for balance, later today I’ll be writing about another store where the customer service has been simply amazing …