Category Archives: Integrity

Why is customer service disappearing?

Subscribers of this blog will know that one of my pet peeves is the fact that customer service seems to have been slowing in performance over the past decade. Today we are going to take a look at some factors that have led to this demise.

  1. Automation/ technology – In an ever increasing number of locations, your entire applebees tabletexperience can now happen without you actually interacting with a fellow human being. You can perform self-checkout at several stores including Walmart and Target, just make sure you place your goods in the bagging area after scanning them! You can also go out to a restaurant for dinner and have the whole process, apart from the delivery of your food and drinks, handled by a computer.
  2. Poor communication skills – This can be due to poor training and also due to the current society that we find ourselves in. It’s a sorry state of affairs, but humans family-on-phonesdon’t communicate as much as they used to, at least not using their voices. Think about the last time you went to the airport, how many people were engaging with fellow travelers? Probably not very many. How many were instead glued to their screens? More than likely the majority. Next time you are out and about, check your surroundings and look at the ratio of people on their phone to those not on their phone. In most circumstances this is typically a 2:1 ratio, and is frequently higher in some industries.
  3. Greedy business owners – Owners who decide that they are going to squeeze every sleazy car salespossible penny out of their business, take shortcuts and only focus on the short term. They don’t take care of their customers, they don’t return calls, they aren’t receptive to feedback, yet for some strange reason they believe that new replacement customers will immediately come flocking to them. Many owners will also completely eradicate their customer service department which never ends well.
  4. Entitlement – Many people now expect things to be given to them without the need tipsto earn it. We recently went out for dinner with my parents and had to ask the manager to provide us with a new server as instead of helping us, our original server was stood close to our table counting his tips. In many places, the lack of service is clearly noticeable as employees now expect to receive gratuity regardless of the level of service that they provide.
  5. Laziness – Some people just aren’t cut out to be customer service representatives, and that’s ok. However, those that are placed in these positions have to spend the bored employeenecessary time taking care of their customers. On our recent vacation, my husband asked the lady at the guest services desk a question and she just provided him with a very generic answer, and didn’t even take the time to look at all of the resources that were literally right in front of her face. This occurred at 6:30am, and it was clear that this employee was checked out and was not going to raise a finger for the rest of her shift. The member of staff replacing her was the complete opposite and went out of her way to help. Both had the information available to them, one just didn’t want to help because it was an inconvenience to them.
  6. Poor company cultureWhat kind of culture is in place at your current bigstock-Group-of-Diverse-Hands-Togethe-109645244.jpgworkplace? Is it customercentric, or is it profit based? Is the focus on integrity and doing the right thing, or is it on maximizing revenue and hoping that everything else works out? If customer service isn’t demanded, and a service based culture isn’t in place, it will be very hard for you to provide your customers with the service they crave. I am a big believer that this starts at the top of every organization.
  7. Competition – You would think that competition would actually force people to up their game, but it frequently has the opposite effect. Take, for example, two basketballcompeting companies. If they want to increase their bottom line, they can increase revenue and/or reduce expenses. Instead of innovative solutions to grow their revenue, the easy option is to lay employees off and take shortcuts when possible. Customer service representatives are canned, and new salesmen on commission only compensation packages are brought in by the dozen.
  8. Outsourcing – The car dealership that I used to visit for services, outsourced their scheduling department. Now, instead of making a phone call to the dealership in Merriam, KS, you contact a huge call center in Dallas, TX. You speak to someone who has no idea who you are, and frequently doesn’t even know anything about the dealership. The next problem is that you arrive at your appointment and they have no idea about the appointment, the special that you discussed on the phone isn’t actually available, and sometimes they don’t even have you in the system. It’s very difficult to satisfy your customers when your “staff” are on different wavelengths.
  9. Overseas help desks/ call centers – This can make things extremely difficult for the customer as there are often language barriers, cultural differences, and the person on the other end of the phone frequently has no interest or understanding of the client that they are representing. They are just going through the motions until the customer decides to end the call. The customer service representative often isn’t trained to problem solve, and instead just tries to diffuse the situation.

What are some other reasons that you believe have had a negative impact on customer service levels in recent years? We would love to hear your thoughts, and are also keen to hear of any great examples of customer service that you have experienced! Please share your comments below.

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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.

 

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.

The right way to grow your business

Recently, I wrote about the sleazy sales techniques employed by the sales team at our timeshare resort. My husband is in sales and marketing and is always watching and critiquing other strategies and styles to see if there are things that he can use to improve his job performance.

There are seven sales tips that he took from these interactions and they are as follows:

(1) Be genuine – The designer suit, huge Rolex watch, and aroma of cologne that can be sensed from the other side of town are renowned traits of sleazy salesmen.

(2) Be respectful of other’s time -The time available for you to get your message across to your prospects is limited and this is even tighter if you are working with a family who have young children. This was the case with our family at our recent timeshare presentation. There were clear signs that the salesman had to get a move on including a screaming baby, a 2 year old who couldn’t sit still any longer and my husband who repeatedly said “you will need to get a move on please as the boys can’t last much longer”. All of these signs were ignored and the only person the salesman was interested in was himself.

(3) Be in a business that you are passionate about – The two people that we spoke to were clearly working from a script and there was no originality to the content of their presentations. There was no passion for the position and you could tell that this was purely a job for both men. Their scripted style did not allow for interruptions by children, or changes based on their clients’ personalities.  A passion for your work allows for more off the cuff conversation and makes room for personalized techniques.

(4) Provide value to your potential customers – We spent approximately  75 minutes in the sales office and at the end of things we hadn’t learned anything new. The topic that we were told the talk was going to be about hadn’t even been discussed with our sales representative. An event that we thought would be very helpful and allow us to make more of our investment in the timeshare, ended up costing us 75 minutes of our vacation. However, it did provide us with some great material for these blogs!

(5) Be honest – Over-promising and under-delivering is a frequent event in the sales world. The salesman will do whatever he can to get the customer in the door, and then the poor operations team are left to pick up the pieces. Let your prospective customer know what you can and can’t do, but be sure to help them find the solutions that they are searching for. Lies and deceit can only get you so far before things start collapsing on you, and at this point it is very difficult to recover.

(6) Don’t over do it – Just because someone doesn’t buy your product or services, doesn’t mean that they won’t recommend  you to their friends and family. It might just be the wrong time for them right now, but this won’t stop them from telling people about you if they see value. If we had been treated correctly at our sales presentation, I would have been more than happy to make referrals. However, due to the miserable experience that we suffered, the only thing that we will be doing is telling people NOT to look into this company.

(7) Relax – Make it a two way conversation, not just you feeding information to your customers. You might have the best product in town, but if it doesn’t mean anything to the consumer, you are just wasting your breath and everyone’s time. Your family passes to the local amusement park might be the best for value in town, but if the person sat opposite you doesn’t have children, the chances of success are fairly slim. Find out more about the person you are conversing with and see if your product can help solve a problem that they are currently experiencing. My advice here is to act in a similar manner to my 2 year old son. Ask question  after question until you get the information that you need to present your business.

Image result for selling ice to an eskimo

Sales is a very difficult position to succeed in, especially if you are on 100% commission and under extreme pressure from your superiors. When possible, follow the 7 steps above and you will hopefully experience more success and enjoyment.

Check out this link for some more tips!

 

 

Nickel and diming

I love fall.  I love everything about fall.  I love the changing temperatures, the changing colors; I love going to wineries and and I love apple cider.  I love pumpkins, and pumpkin flavors (to an extent)!  Should I go on?  Ok, I will.  I love carving pumpkins and watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”  When I was a kid, we had a scarecrow making party at our house each year – I plan to reinstate that with my boys!  I love having people over on Halloween for mulled wine and Halloween snacks.  I love wearing flannel shirts and leggings and boots.  And I love going to the pumpkin patch!!

This year, we had the pleasure of attending a family fun day at a new pumpkin patch in our area, hosted by our wonderful realtor Megan Irvine.  We tried to go to this pumpkin patch last year on Halloween, but unfortunately it was too muddy, so we sadly had to spend all our time at the adjoining winery.

Image result for funny wine

However, while the adults were pleased with this turn of events, we did have two toddlers all dressed up in their Charlie Brown and Lucy costumes ready to pick out pumpkins, so the kind owner of the patch/winery brought a few pumpkins over to choose from.  That act of kindness plus the added bonus of a winery visit made us so excited to return again this year, and we were not disappointed.  KC Pumpkin Patch is not just pumpkins – KC Pumpkin Patch has slides; it has miniature zip lines; there is a giant bounce pad; a haunted house; a maize maze; a little store with yummy treats and fall decorations, and a ton of places for kids of all ages to put their faces and pretend to be fun characters.

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One of the greatest and most surprising aspects of this pumpkin patch is when you walk in the door, you pay one fee, then most everything else there is included!  When we saw the giant bounce pad (it looked like so much fun, many parents asked if they could play but sadly, we were not allowed), I just assumed that there would be a nominal fee to play.  But there wasn’t – nor was there any fee for the slides or zip lines, the maize maze was included and so were the tractor and train rides!  We become so accustomed to paying $2 here, $.50 there that we almost forget how much it can affect our wallets, and when the kids are giving you those sweet, puppy-dog eyes, it’s pretty hard to say no!  The pumpkin patch was giving out $2 off coupons for the winery as we left, so after a little arm twisting, we headed that way.  At the winery, there were also fun things for the kids to do which is a great touch!  We also had the pleasure of speaking with the owner, where we expressed our gratitude for the wonderful experience, and also commented about how much we appreciated the included activities.  He explained that when they set everything up, they really thought about it from the point of view of parents – they wanted to create a fun, family atmosphere that everyone could enjoy.  They certainly accomplished that goal!

Royal Services is similar in they way they handle their business.  They include as much as they possibly  can on the front end instead of using low prices to get people in the door and then hammering them with change orders and additional costs.  Just like the pumpkin patch, this up front approach ends up saving you money in the end, making for a stress-free and enjoyable experience that everyone can appreciate.

Not another sales presentation…

My husband, two boys and I made the 3 hour 15 minute trip south to Branson for Labor Day weekend this year. We have visited the town on several occasions and keep returning as there are lots of things to do, it’s a relatively short drive from our home in Kansas City, and we really enjoy being at an exceptional resort that is well maintained and has plenty of activities available to entertain all members of the family.  We love that we own a timeshare with Wyndham and can experience a weekend getaway at a moment’s notice without worrying about a dirty room, poor service or an unsafe location.  However, while we are owners and not required to attend sales presentations, they offer many incentives for us to listen to a speech for an “hour” during our vacation, and despite almost every single experience being negative, we continue to get sucked in time and time again.

timeshare

 


This article about timeshare presentations is hilarious if you don’t mind a little bit of language.  My favorite sentence:
“Will, our sales associate, came over and met with us. He was a gangly, mid-20’s asshat from Dallas who looked like he was cut out from a business casual ad with dork scissors.”
www.ruthlessreviews.com

And for even more hilarity, check this one out:

“I said hell yes I’d like to take just one hour of my time to hear about an exciting way I could save money on future vacations. I mean, it sounded pretty awesome to me,” Jones said.

The promised one hour presentation turned into a two and a half hour adventure once Jones arrived at the all inclusive Global Sun Grand Resort. Jones expressed gratitude that she would be privileged with more time in the company of such esteemed individuals.
sarcasticnewslive.com

 


On our first Wyndham vacation together, we went to Las Vegas and had an amazing time.  The incentive to sit with a sales representative and listen to his schpeel was a meal at a nice restaurant, so we thought “Why not?”  It was actually a great experience, the man did not try to sell us anything, simply educated us about new locations we could visit, as promised when we made the appointment.  After that, our experiences have all gone downhill.  Again and again, we check into our room and are offered something seemingly awesome – a one hour meeting in exchange for dinner certificates, Visa gift cards, sometimes with a meal included at the meeting, sometimes all of the above.  Again and again we tell the person that no, we will not attend because the one hour meeting always ends up being two or more hours and we do not want to spend that much time of our vacation being sold to when we most certainly will not be buying anything.  Which prompts them to say “Oh no!  We promise it will only be ONE hour, and the purpose of this meeting is to teach you about something new and awesome that you don’t already know about!  No selling involved!”  Inevitably, we agree because their offer seems too good to pass up on.  And inevitably, we leave feeling angry and saying “NEVER AGAIN! NEVER!”  Labor Day was no different.  As current timeshare owners, our experiences are not as bad as what was portrayed on the famous episode of South Park, where the characters are held at gunpoint during their presentation.  However, sales people will be sales people, therefore we get to experience a little of the cliché pressure whenever we choose to attend.

south-park

We arrived at the meeting with the boys in tow (they wouldn’t allow just one spouse to attend this “educational” meeting about website reservations – that should have been our first red flag).  The young man who sat us down at his desk was very new to the game.  He was trying to play it cool, low pressure, just shooting the breeze until the required hour was up.  I mentioned the website changes we were supposed to learn about and he had no idea what I was talking about (red flag number 2, ignored). We did learn a lot about his life, and he about ours.  We shared laughs and told horror stories about our past sales meetings.  As we were closing in on an hour, the boys were beginning to get restless, I was getting extremely warm and my husband was trying to wrap things up.  Just as we thought we were about to be dismissed to collect our gifts, he mentioned something about a VIP package; upon seeing the blank looks on our faces he immediately realized he probably should have been doing his job the whole time.  He left the table to get a senior representative and that is where things went sour.  Our first guy bailed, and the new guy began the hard sell.  When my husband pointed out we had been there an hour and were ready to go, without purchasing anything new, the man completely ignored him.  When we pointed out our fussy children ready for naps, we were again ignored.  Finally my husband got stern and told the man that we were leaving.

As we left, we discussed how little the operations and sales teams worked together.  There is clearly no communication, and while they have different intermediate goals in mind, would it not suit them to work together on the ultimate goal, bringing people back to your place of business, and creating evangelists at the same time?  Ironically, one of the things the salesman was “educating” us on was the four things that Wyndham owners have requested to change – one of those was the sales meetings.  Yet there we were, in another sales meeting.

I did call to complain, and they did send us a fruit basket.  Very nice, and much appreciated (#harryanddavid #yesplease).  But when will enough be enough?  When we will we wise up and stop attending the meetings?  And when will Wyndham wise up and think about what their current customers want, as well as potential future customers?

 

Con Artists at work in Dublin, Ireland

One of the things that we are most proud about at Royal Services is our honesty and transparency. In an industry where many of our competitors have a used car salesman reputation, it is obviously a big struggle to get potential partners to lower their defenses. However, since 1993 we have treated our clients with the honesty and respect that they deserve. We are a family owned company and we live by family values. If we make mistakes we own them. If we can’t do something we communicate with our clients and try to find an alternative solution. When we bid a project, we do it as thoroughly and accurately as possible and provide our client with what the job will take. Unfortunately many of our competitors will make promises ahead of time and provide you with low prices, and then take advantage of you once they have got you in the door. 

royal services in dubin

This week’s article looks at a dining experience that we had on our recent trip to the Emerald Isle. We had purchased the Cityscape “hop on, hop off” bus pass, and after an incredible 2 and a half hour tour of the city, the driver and tour guide suggested that we visit Murray’s bar and restaurant. He told us that it was one of the most popular venues in town and that we would be able to get a “2 for 1” deal on meals by showing our bus tickets. We thought that this sounded like a good idea so got off of the bus at the nearest stop to Murray’s and made the short walk along O’Connell street.

We arrive and are immediately handed a piece of paper with a very simple menu on it. It looks like something that a 4th grader put together for a simple project using the most basic of online templates. There was a good variety of meals available with all meals apart from starters priced at 12.95. We could see the “traditional menus” under the hostess stand so assumed that we had by default been handed the “Cityscape menu”. The moral of this story is to not assume 🙂

We spent a few minutes reviewing the options available to us and then placed our order. It took some time to get our order but once everything had arrived we all tucked in and enjoyed our evening meal. We sat and chatted for a while as our 2 year old “flirted” with the waitress and then the screaming emanating from our 10 month old’s mouth signalled that it was time to head back to the hotel.

Temple Bar Dublin and Royal Services

We ask for the bill and all of a sudden the barman goes into hiding and has one of his colleagues bring the check to us. Upon quick review we noticed that we had been charged f0r all 6 meals, and that the discount had not been applied. We questioned the barman who informed us that we should have told him ahead of time that we were looking for the discounted menu. Obviously the fact that our tour brochure and bus tickets were clearly visible on the table didn’t mean anything. The barman showed little signs of wanting to solve the problem and provide us with what had been promised, so we had to take it to the next level. In more ways than one 🙂

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

We immediately headed upstairs to find the manager and get things rectified. As we were waiting to speak to the manager, the barman comes flying up the stairs thinking that we had done a runner. I imagine that there have been several customers that have done this in the past, but two wrongs don’t make a right. To his credit, the manager acknowledged the original deal and reduced our bill accordingly. He then mentioned about the need to make things clearer and let patrons know ahead of time what the deal was, but a quick search on Google shows that this scam has been going on for some time with several visitors expressing their disappointment with this “deal”.

This tactic might earn some short term business as a large percentage of patrons are tourists who will never be in Dublin again. There are also many non English speaking visitors from all corners of the world who wouldn’t be able to understand what is going on and how they are being mislead. However, it doesn’t matter who your customer is, you need to do the right thing and take care of them if you want to be successful in the long term. This experience felt similar to a company shortchanging a customer because she was blind and couldn’t see what was going on.

the emerald isle and royal services

This left a very bitter taste in our mouths, and even though the food was very good, the dishonesty and trickery from this establishment means that this is not a venue that we would recommend. After all of the talk that you hear about how beautiful Dublin is and how welcoming the people are, we left with different feelings after our encounters. This company did themselves no favors here, and I do not think that their future is going to be anything special. In anything that I do I need to be able to look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day knowing that I have done the right thing. I might not make as much money, or drive the same car as my highly successful neighbor, but I can live with a clear conscience.

Where have you felt hard done by? Which establishments have lied to get you in the door? Who made you feel like you had been stolen from? Let us know in the comments section below.

As the Irish say, Schloncha, and happy travelling 🙂

Guiness pint and Royal Services