What Resonated This Week: Customer Service — The Good, The Bad, and The Simple Trick to Making It Be

This is the seventh installment of "What Resonated This Week," where I share my observations around a common theme or topic that made an impact on me, and hopefully will be a catalyst for conversation and further discussion.

For the last few months I've published posts about what's resonated with me. Connecting the dots was the initial theme, followed by the idea that you need to customize your message and be mindful of your audience. After that I wrote about finding the courage to ask for help, and the power of "Coffee Talk" and connecting in person. My most recent posts were on the hidden benefits of road trips and notes written on Post-its®.

This week it's about a topic near and dear to many of our hearts: customer service.

Customer service is defined as providing service to a customer before, during and after a purchase. There is a human component to it, and if used wisely, it really is a relationship over time that can contribute to brand loyalty — or brand abandonment.

The Good: Peet's Coffee

I start nearly every morning with a nonfat latte, and have no shortage of coffee places in my neck of the woods. Yet I choose Peet's, again and again, because they make me feel good. Like I matter. And it's been that way from the beginning.

One of the first times I visited Peet's, I managed to trip on my way back to my car and dump my entire latte on the pavement. Huge bummer. Back inside I went to wait in line to purchase another drink. When I arrived at the register and explained what had happened, they insisted on making me a replacement latte, free of charge.

When I visit Peet's with my younger daughter, a favorite barista always makes sure to add an extra dollop of whip cream (and this week, sprinkles) to her drink because he delights in seeing her eyes light up at the simple act of kindness.

Even the cover photo of this post is from Peet's. That cute, smiley face-topped latte brightened my morning. So much so that I felt compelled to share it with my social networks.

Not surprisingly, I'm a loyal Peetnik (yes, that's what they call us). And I'm hoping you'll become one too.

The Bad: Pottery Barn

Back in early September, we ordered a new sectional from Pottery Barn with the understanding that it would take 8-10 weeks for delivery. By our calculations, that meant we'd be relaxing on that new couch before Thanksgiving.

Spoiler alert: we weren't.

It's been nearly 13 weeks and the only things that have been delivered are two emails telling me my order has been delayed. Again.

After the last email I called customer service, and waited on hold purgatory for more than 20 minutes before the system disconnected me. I phoned again and after 30 minutes was finally connected to a human, who figured out that one reason she guessed (yes, she used those words) my delivery had been delayed was because my order didn't have my email or phone number attached to it.

Hmm, funny how I got a few emails about my order being delayed, despite my order not having my email.

She then told me that she would add my contact info but that it would have to be sent to another department before it could be sent to the warehouse. When I asked if she could simply call the warehouse, she said she couldn't and instructed me to call them directly if I wanted an update.

So I did. But not happily. And when I recounted my conversation to James at the warehouse he said that he didn't feel confident that he'd EVER get my updated contact info since they're "not great at communicating with us."

James was happy to report, however, that he could deliver 2 of my 3 items immediately — until I told him that 2/3 of a sectional wouldn't work. He wasn't sure where that third piece was but he promised he'd investigate and call me back.

I think you can guess what happened (or more specifically what did not).

At this point I was more than frustrated. I was extremely disappointed in a brand that I had long admired. And put off by what I deemed as a lack of customer service, I felt compelling to share my story on Twitter.

It's amazing how social media has the power to make something happen, but I shouldn't have had to vent on Twitter in order for Pottery Barn to do something.

Here's what I got on Twitter after expressing my displeasure:

And after writing to customer service (as they advised), this is the response I got:

Nothing says "we care" like an auto-respond email saying we'll get back to you in 72 hours.

The only bright spot in this mess has been Pottery Barn's Social Media lead Rachel Blaine, who contacted me directly and has been trying to get me my sectional. In fact she phoned me last night and told me that I should get a call today to schedule delivery since all 3 piece were accounted for and ready to be shipped.

Sadly, I'm still waiting for that call...

Something to Consider

So why does customer service have to be so hard?

It doesn't.

Having a customer-centric perspective isn't tough to do. Simply put yourself in someone else's shoes. Think about what you would like and how you'd like to be treated if YOU were the customer.

For some people this comes naturally, especially in the hospitality world where it's all about making your guest (notice how nice that sounds versus customer?) feel special. And being accountable and until they do.

But I would argue that this Golden Rule philosophy serves all industries.

Everyone wants to feel like they're important, that they're heard, and if there is a problem, that someone is going to bat for them to make it better.

Remember, kindness is free (and contagious!); acquiring new customers is not.

So, what resonated with you this week?

#consulting #customerservice #sales

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