Is customer service going out of style?

I would like to start this blog with an apology.  It seems that many of these blogs involve me complaining about one thing or another, typically customer service situations.  But in my defense, I think that customer service is going downhill and that needs to be addressed.  So here I am, back again with yet another story about poor service, but hopefully it will have a positive outcome and inspire you to step it up in your own business!

I wrote in a previous blog about my best friend’s passing in September.  Lindsay had ovarian cancer, and her family is really working hard to help the Vicki Welsh Fund get the message out there about this horrible disease.  This weekend, they are throwing out the first pitch at a softball game that is being held in honor of Lindsay to raise awareness for lINDSAY2 black
ovarian cancer.  What a great cause!  They decided they would like to have shirts made for the game, so at a moment when my creative juices were flowing, I designed a shirt and reached out to a few printing companies to see what could be done to make my design a reality.  I sent detailed messages, explaining what the shirts were for, when I would need them, approximately how many I would need and I also attached pictures of my design so they would know what they were working with.  Seeing as these are locally owned businesses, I was fully expecting out of this world customer service, because small businesses cannot typically afford to offer any less.  However, I was unpleasantly surprised with what actually happened.  I sent my first emails 10 days before I would need the shirts, knowing this would give everyone plenty of time to complete the project.  However, FIVE days later I was shocked to find myself following up with all three companies as none of them had given me a quote yet.  One of them responded right away with “$25.00.”  That was literally the only thing in the email body; no salutation, no apology for taking so long.  Just numbers.  In my mind, I immediately crossed this company off the list, vowing that even if the others were more expensive I would not give this company my business.  The next company emailed back with “Send me your artwork, we can get those made this week.”  Ok, that’s nice, but you still haven’t told me how much it will cost!  So I responded, AGAIN asking for a quote and waited for the response.  It did not come for two more days.  This was three days before I needed the shirts done; could they even make them in that short of a time?  I’ll never know, because I gave that company the boot as well.  The company I ended up using was the lesser of three evils, which as you’ve seen is not saying much.  In their favor, they did send a nice email apologizing for taking so long and included a quote for the shirts.  I collected orders from Lindsay’s family members and sent them right over to the shirt company.  I was hoping for confirmation that the order had been received, as we were working on a pretty tight deadline at this point, but of course that didn’t come, even after I sent a friendly text checking in.  When I did finally get an email, it was all irritating news: 1. When she originally quoted the shirts, she did not include the artwork on the sleeve that was IN PLAIN SIGHT in the picture I sent her.  Ok, no big deal.  I moved that artwork to the back, keeping us at the same cost.  2. There will be an extra $40 setup charge for any order with less than 24 items.  So when I told her we would need 20 shirts, why didn’t she include the $40 in the quote? 3.  I would need to convert the artwork to PDF, otherwise there will be an extra $20 charge.  $20 to convert to PDF?  That is outrageous.  Luckily, I have the capability to do so, and therefore avoided that charge.  In my final email to her, getting her all of the information she needed to complete the order, I asked for a final total after tax so I could let everyone know before the game on Saturday.  I’m still waiting for that response.

Image result for someecards customer service

Who knew that having t-shirts made could be such an ordeal?  Hopefully I will be able to find a quality company to use for the next time we need to do something like this.  But in the meantime, I hope this little story will remind you of how important customer service is!  Just because you are corresponding through email does not mean you should not use full sentences.  Be polite and show your customer that you care.  Also, remember to respond!  We all get busy and sometimes forget, but if you own a business, you can’t afford to lose customers.  Respond in a timely fashion if you want their business.  Finally, before you send the email, read through all of your correspondence and make sure all of their questions have been answered.  This will save time and allow you to move on to other pressing matters that need your attention.

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And again…

insanity

According to this quote, you can definitely consider my husband and myself certifiably insane.  Because we yet again chose to attend a Wyndham sales pitch believing that it would be more about education, and less about taking our money.  Because, of course, when we signed up for the meeting we were TOLD it would be more about education and less about taking our money.  In case you haven’t read this piece, I’ll give you a little back story: We have owned a Wyndham timeshare for about 5 years now, and we really do love it.  We always have a nice place to stay, with wonderful amenities and of course with young children, having a multi-bedroom suite with a full kitchen is like a dream compared to a cramped hotel room.  Our latest trip was to Washington D.C. where my husband had a trade show to attend for work.  During the days when he was working, I cannot even imagine having to stay in a small hotel room and still provide meals and naps for the boys, while holding on to my sanity.  The only complaint or negative comment we ever have about our stay is the brutal sales meeting we always attend.  Don’t get me wrong – we are not FORCED to attend these meetings.  But the incentive is usually pretty amazing.  This time, they offered to pay for our parking for the week, which was quite a hefty chunk of change!  But once again, we left the meeting saying it wasn’t worth it.  It’s never worth it!  This particular meeting really frustrated me because of the verbiage that was being used over and over again, which was in complete contrast to the actions of the sales staff.  The phrase I heard over and over again from our salesperson, as well as all of the sales staff around us, was “doing my due diligence.”  So you aren’t interested in buying more points at this time?  Well I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if I did not talk to you about how much you could benefit by purchasing more points!  Still not interested?  I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if I didn’t leave the table and get advice from my manager on how to close this deal.   Starting to get exhausted from thinking of different ways to say no?  I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if I didn’t bring my manager over to put on the pressure.  By continually referencing their “due diligence,” they were implying that they were truly trying to help us, but in reality they were just trying to help us spend our money.

What really frustrates me about the whole thing is the dishonesty of it all.  If they said to me “Laura, we want to try and sell you more points and in return we will give you a crisp $100 bill; it’s supposed to last an hour, but you’ll probably be there for two,” I would most likely feel less anger at the end of the meeting.  At least I knew what I was signing up for!  But instead, they convince you that their place is different – they aren’t selling, they are EDUCATING.  But they still require that both spouses attend, children in tow, no matter how inconvenient that may be.  Don’t worry, after I finish this blog I will begin my strongly worded email to the powers that be expressing my disdain for the situation.  But the good thing is that it reminded me once again how far honesty can take you; I will never purchase something from someone I don’t trust.  Even if I have to pay a little more, knowing that the person with whom I am working is honest and dependable is priceless.

 

Own it

Last week I wrote about the importance of taking ownership of mistakes.  The very next night I experienced first hand what this looks like and felt compelled to share the story here.  My mom and I were in the mood for margaritas, so despite previous experiences that weren’t so hot, we loaded the family up and headed to the local Jose Peppers for some yummy queso and 2 for $8 margaritas.  Margarita.0.0There was a pretty long wait, but we were finally seated and our server came over to take our drink orders.  He started by informing my mom that they carry Pepsi products.  She told him she was more interested in the “margarita products” to which he responded, “If you would have let me finish my sentence, I would have gotten to that.”  Ok.  Not off to the best start, but we are patient people and decided to let this rude comment slide.  But for the next half hour or so, more and more things were happening.  None of us received waters, despite our server making a big deal that “anyone who orders alcoholic beverages automatically gets waters, so don’t bother ordering them.”  Our boys were so thirsty and we had to ask a different server to bring their waters!  It was such a busy night, and as a former server, I completely understand when you are running all over the place taking care of all of your tables and sometimes forget about drinks.  But our server was never running, or even walking fast; on the contrary, he was walking so slow and it seemed he only had our table and one other so he wasn’t that busy.  In fact, at one point when we were ready to order more drinks, he sauntered to the table next to ours to pick up the ticket and check out what tip was left, but didn’t even glance our direction to make sure we were ok.  My food arrived before anyone else’s, which is fine, but after 10 minutes when I was still the only one with food, we were getting a little frustrated.  What pushed us over the edge was when our server brought our check before the food! We finally decided to speak to the manager and let him know what had been happening.  He did not seem that concerned while my husband was speaking to him, so we figured it was a lost cause and we would just not return to the restaurant.  However, within about 3 minutes, everything changed.  The manager returned to the table and introduced us to a new server.  The young man (who we had noticed was already pretty busy) truly did an amazing job of making the remainder of our experience pleasant.  With the help of the manager, he got all of our food out, drinks ordered and delivered, all with a positive attitude and pleasant demeanor, despite the pressure he was under from all of his other tables.  We were so impressed with the way the situation was handled, and will definitely return again soon!

This is such a perfect example of taking ownership of a negative situation.  Rather than simply saying “I’ll talk to him” and giving us a free dessert (which they did anyway, by the way!), we were given a new server and the opportunity to change our experience from negative to positive.  They could have treated us like we were wrong to expect more on such a busy night, but instead they treated us like we deserved to have a great meal and conversation beyond complaining about our server.

Negative situations do not have to define your business; by taking control of the situation and turning it into a positive, you can create customers and evangelists for life!

Taking Ownership

Recently, I ordered some headbands on Amazon.  As my hairstyle of choice has been ponytail lately, and I occasionally like to be active, I thought some nice headbands to hold my hair back, as well as collect sweat if I’m doing something particularly strenuous, would be a nice item to have.  I read the reviews on Amazon, as I always do, and ended up choosing this particular brand because of the mostly 5 star reviews; the only low star reviews were about how tight they are, and my head isn’t huge, so I thought this would not affect me at all.  Upon receiving them, I realized I probably should have paid a little bit more attention to those negative reviews!  The bands were so tight that they slipped right off the back of my head after wearing them for only a few minutes.  I even tried using clips to keep them in place, but this did not work either.  So I packaged them up to return them, and also left an honest review of my experience on Amazon.  The next day I had an email from the headband company.  I hoped that they were informing me that they had made changes in production, or had a different option I could try, but it was nothing like that.  They said they saw my review on Amazon and my plans to return the headbands and they offered to refund half my money, as well as let me keep the headbands.  They worded it as though they were looking out for me, as Amazon would make me pay shipping for the return and they were here to save me the hassle of returns!  I declined, however, as I knewbuying-stars that Amazon would cover the shipping and I would just end up throwing the bands in the trash if I kept them.  They responded that they would look into offering me a full refund, if only I would “consider the review” I left. I asked them to clarify, and basically, they said they will give me my money back if I will change my review.  What?  That certainly should not be how reviews work.  I purchased these headbands based upon positive reviews; were they all paid for?
I contacted Amazon and they said they would “investigate” as this is against their policies.

This long, drawn-out situation was over HEADBANDS.  The company could not even take ownership of a faulty product as small as a headband.  So what about companies that are hired to do much, much bigger things, like build a house?  Or rollout new display cases over hundreds of stores?  Can you imagine the nightmare you would be in if that company acted like the headband company?  “Sorry we sealed a raccoon into your roof.  We’re going to leave it there, but would you consider giving us a positive review anyway?”   Hiring a company to take on a big project can be a stressful ordeal.  You need to consider quality, cost and time and if you’re like me, you will also pore over online reviews for hours.  The last thing you want is to invest a ton of money into a project only to have a mediocre finished project, or worse, a project that is not finished at all.

But mistakes happen; the people working for you are only human, after all.  The important thing is that they take responsibility for any mistakes that are made, take ownership of the originally agreed upon cost of services, and do their very best to make sure you are completely happy at the end of the day.

I’m sure everyone has a story about a project gone bad, either for your home or business.  From projects that take months too long, to end results that are dangerous for the home or business owner, it’s always a gamble when you begin working with a company who you have never worked with before.  Thanks to the wide world of the internet, we are lucky enough to be able to research the heck out of a company before hiring them on.  If you are thinking of hiring a new project management or facility maintenance company, Royal Services actually encourages potential clients to speak with current partners about their experiences.  They are so confident in the work that they do and the high-quality service they provide,  they know you will be impressed with the feedback you receive.   Royal Services has five key pillars that they stand by, the first of which is Ownership.

Assume accountability for completion of all steps and ensure the best outcome for our clients through planning and execution.

As a business owner, you know the risks involved in a big project.  Don’t hire a company who refuses to stand behind their finished product!  Find a company who is with you even after the job is complete, truly standing by everything that they do.

Your WHY

Why do you get out of bed in the morning?  Is it to make money for yourself and/or your family?  Is it to take care of your children?  Is it because you love your job and can’t wait to get to work?

Whatever reason you have, it’s important to keep in mind that this “why” can drive your day, week and even your life.

“Your Why provides you with clarity, meaning and direction. It is a filter through which you can make decisions, every day, to bring your cause to life.”

-Simon Sinek

Personally, I have chosen to stay home with my children because I feel that is where I can be of most use, and it is where I will be the happiest me I can be.  This direction is not for everyone; some feel they are better suited conquering the corporate world, or providing the world with delicious pastries.  Everyone has a different why, the point is to find out what that is for you and to remind yourself of this throughout the day in order to stay on the right path.

Recently, my little guys have been a little challenging.  The oldest is three going on 13, with an attitude and brains beyond his short years.  He tests my patience by the hour, and to add to that, my youngest is 16 months and teething like crazy.  There are certainly moments where I wonder what the heck I was thinking staying home!!  In those moments, it is important that I think about my why.  The reason why I decided to stay home was because I cannot stand the thought of missing important moments; I cannot stand the thought of someone else having to deal with these behaviors because they definitely will Inspirational Typographic Quote - When you feel like quitting, tnot be as patient as I am!  I know that this is the best place for me because it is what I have always dreamed of doing and I never dread “going to work.”  Most importantly, I NEED to be able to give them hugs and kisses anytime I see fit.  So, when I begin to question this decision, I remember this why and get myself back on track by squeezing and smooching to my heart’s content.

Obviously, not every work problem can be solved with hugs and kisses; in fact, unless you work with your family I would strongly suggest you do not attempt to solve problems in this way.  However, it can be helpful to remember why you are doing what you are doing from time to time.  The same can be said for businesses as a whole, as opposed to just the individuals within them.  As time goes by, it is easy for a business to get into a rut, doing the same thing every day just because it’s what you did yesterday.  Remembering your why can help guide your business to where you want it to be.

Royal Services has paid special attention to their why recently; in fact, they developed a why statement specifically for this purpose.  This statement is a great way to bring all departments together and remind everyone of their common goal; in this case,

“To provide our customers with superior project management, innovative programs, and a single point of accountability for facility solutions so that Royal, our clients, and our vendors can all thrive.”

Does your business have a why statement? Do you?  If not, come up with one!  Or at the very least, take some time out of your day to remember why you are doing what you are doing; remembering your purpose may help give your days more meaning.