Customer Service

I have always been big on customer service.   I work in a service industry and I am proud of the service that I provide for my customers and my customer service skills.  I must confess that there are times when I may have not shown the greatest skills in customer service.  For example, there was the time when I owned my own business that I told a nun to take her “laptop and get the f*** out!”  It should be noted that as a businessman I had already broken several of my own business policies in an attempt to give this particular person extraordinary service.  Suffice it to say that if Jesus were indeed married to this particular woman, it would explain why he spends so much time in heaven.  I do hate an ingrate, but I can say that I probably could have handled the situation better at the time…, maybe.  So, disclaimers aside, I thought I would deal with the issue of good customer service, and treating a customer well in today’s post.

As I drove to work this morning thinking about this, I was transported back to high school over twenty years ago.  I remember working at a Minyard’s Food Store as a bagger when I was in high school.  It was a nice and growing experience.  I remember once when there was an incentive program to encourage employees to be courteous to customers.  If an employee was seen by the manager doing something extra in the form of customer service for a customer, the employee received a star on a button.  At the end of the program, the employee with the most stars got $50.  I still remember going to the back of the store and getting a chair for an old woman to sit in while she waited for her ride to pick her up after shopping.  That particular $50 seemed to spend better than the other money I earned after I won it.

I also remember an episode of bad customer service that happened to me during this time.  We closed the store at night, and were usually finished cleaning up around 1:00 a.m.  Since we had only had one 15 minute break since 5:00 p.m., most of the guys I worked with were hungry when we got off work.  Lucky for us, the only fast food restaurant in town that was open that late, a Burger King, was in our parking lot.  I usually gave a couple of the guys a ride home, so on the way out we would swing through the drive-through and pick up a few burgers.  The other benefit was the fact that two or three of the local hotties worked the late shift at the Burger King, and we would flirt with them.  We did this pretty much every night, and honestly, we were the only business that they had between 12:30 and 2:00 when they closed.

In high school, there were times when I could be a bit of a knucklehead, and one night I decided to put my knuckleheadedness to work for me.  On that evening, knowing that the particular hottie that I liked the best was working, I decided it would be cool if I drove through the drive-through backward.  We did this without incident, and when we got to the window, there she was with a sweet little giggle.  I could tell she really thought it was funny, as did the other employees, except for the manager.  He walked over to the window, and yelled at me saying, “If you guys ever do this again, we won’t serve you.”  Here I was, his only business, and he was threatening me.  I looked right at him and said, “You won’t have to worry about that” (I really think this college-age punk was just jealous that we were pulling away some of the attention from his bevy of high school hotties).  To this day, I’ve never been back to that particular Burger King, and I subconsciously choose the other burger joint whenever I see a Burger King and another fast food place together.

When I was in college, I received a crash course (almost literally) in customer service when I road Greyhound one weekend to go home from school.  It was bad enough that the bus took 10 hours to make a 3 hour trip, but I swear the driver was on methamphetamine as he drove, and I was not the only one of the passengers to notice.  I stowed my baggage, and watched them put it on the cargo hold.  It held almost all of my cloths which, like any college student, I was bringing home to be cleaned for free.  The baggage was labeled as mine.  The ride was truly frightening, and I was glad when we got to my destination in Denton.  It had been obvious for most of the trip that the driver was running behind, and that he would have used a hyper drive to make the bus go even fast if it had been available to him.  When we got to Denton, he played his customer service card.  He informed the ten or so of us that there was no record of our luggage on his paperwork.  This, of course was a lie.  He simply did not want to take the time to get our luggage off the bus.  It told him which baggage compartment my luggage was in, and that it was labeled with my information.  He refused to even look for it.  Since most of my worldly possessions consisted of clothes at this time, I was reluctant to lose them in this manner.  It told him that I would not leave the bus until he looked for my stuff.  He actually touched me trying to get me off the bus at one point, but quickly let go, and threatened to call the cops.  Eventually, I relented.  I wish to this day that I had pushed it further and seen what the highway patrol would have had to say to him…, or me.

Of course, it was a holiday weekend, and my mom had to drive me to down-town Dallas, and spend about four hours of the weekend that I wanted to use for rest and recuperation retrieving my luggage.  They did not even offer an apology.  I informed my parents that we would be finding me transportation or I would not be going back to school.  It was an empty threat because I liked school, but it worked.  I have never considered riding the bus anywhere since then.  In fact, I will go out of my way to tell people of the awful service I received from Greyhound.  Don’t ever user this company (how’s that?).

I guess the best example that I can find has to do with car maintenance.  Since I was in high school, Just Brakes has run commercials touting brake service for $100 for each set of brakes.  Anyone who has ever been to this place knows it is a lie. 

I had to get my brakes done one day, and I could not get a ride, so I was stuck at Just Brakes for several hours waiting for the work to be completed.  I proceeded to watch them up-charge every person who came through the door.  It was shameful.  The pitch was the same every time.  They would insist on replacing the same “worn-out” items on each car that they serviced (including mine).  It was fascinating that every car regardless of make, model or year would have the same problems with their brake systems.  For instance, they recommended replacing a particular spring on every car that came in.  The spring was $30 and the labor was extra.  As the day wore on, I watched every person who came through the door get charged over $600 to get their brakes done.  Anyone who balked at the price was told that if they did not have all of the recommended service done to their cars, then Just Brakes would not warranty them.  Of course, Just Brakes had already done work and labor by this time, so they had these people (including myself) over a barrel.  I thought about refusing the warranty, but something about the people who ran this particular outfit made me think that doing so would simply make me a good candidate for the example they needed to scare everyone into paying their fees.  You know, the guy who did not pay for the warranty, and oops, his brake line was worn out, came apart and led to his untimely death.  So, I sat there awaiting my fate like a WWII gypsy, and when my turn came, I paid their exorbitant fee.  But, I determined never to go there again, and I encourage you, unless you like to be lied to and have your money stolen not to use them either.

A good mechanic is hard to find, but since I found one, and his service is the best example I have ever seen of consistent, great service combined with a fair price, I will mention him here.  The business is 40-M Tire and Alignment in Lewisville, Texas (He does more than just tires and alignments).  His great service, often doing things such as plugging a tire for free, has led me to recommend him to every person that I know.  My whole family and many friends still use him.  I will still drive the 40 miles to get service from him if it is possible, and I can even trust him not to take advantage of my mother’s lack of automobile knowledge.  He treats her very well, often refusing payment for his services.

The best example of great service from him occurred when I was getting some work done to my vehicle.  I asked to have the front brakes done, an alignment, and an oil change.  On the way out the door, I remembered that I needed to get an inspection that month so I asked him for that also.  He said that the rest would be no problem, but that he did not do inspections.  I said, “Ok, just do the other stuff.”  He called me before 12:00 noon that day and told me my vehicle was ready.  When I went to pick it up, he said, “I went ahead and took it down the street and got it inspected for you.”  He did not even charge me anything extra!  Now that’s service!  And, this was all coming from a guy whose lot you could barely park in because of the amount of business he did.  I guess there was a reason for that.

 

If you have customer service stories (good or bad), please feel free to tell me (and the world)about it in the form of a comment.

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I was reading a story today about an 89 year old lady who was arrested this week for keeping a football that had gone into her yard.  Of course, there was the requisite shaking of the head that was prompted by the words in front of me, but as I thought about it, I wondered “What was her motivation for keeping the ball?  What did she get out of it?”

I know some would like to turn this into a property rights issue.  Does she, as owner of the property, have the right to keep the ball when it comes into her yard uninvited?  Do the kids have the right to demand that she allow them onto her property to retrieve it, or do they have the right to compel her to retrieve it for them or give it back to them?  And, I’m sure the police did not go right to her house and arrest her upon receiving a complaint from a bunch of kids.  If any protocols were followed, they would have given her multiple opportunities to return the ball before she was actually arrested.  I’m sure she just refused to listen to reason or cooperate, and they were left with no choice.  Yeah, it’s pretty sad.

But the question of “Why?” still remains.  I think that I actually stumbled upon the answer on the way to work this morning.  It happened while I and everyone else on this particular road were being slowed down by unusually heavy traffic.  When the state authorities redesigned that part of the highway a few years ago, they did so with a view to the future.  There is actually room for four lanes (on each side of the road) to fit easily through this stretch of road, but unfortunately a couple of miles on either side of this stretch, there are areas that are still two lanes wide, and expansion would require massive engineering projects to ever get to the desired four lanes.  As a result, the area of the road that could hold four lanes, still has only two to keep from having a bottle-neck at the other end.  As I sat in traffic this morning, I saw two vehicles pull out into the huge shoulder area and simply drive about a mile down ahead of the other cars.  It was complete sorry-ness, and I found myself wondering “Why?” once again.  Why would they do this?  It shows a complete lack of regard for the law, and the other people who are being forced to wait their turn, and in the end, when they get to the point where they have to join the rest of the pack, they end up slowing traffic even further to let their sorry selves back in.

These people and the old lady from the first story reflect the attitude that they only care about themselves.  They have no regard for others around them or people that they might come into contact with.  Their greatest personal achievements involve elevating themselves above those around them (at least in their own minds). 

The answer is a reflection of the fact that there has been a removal of social mores, and it shows the death of the personal moral compass that has been encouraged by the cultural relativists in our land has begun to bear fruit.  People have been encouraged by schools, society, television, and psychologists to do what feels good to them regardless of how it affects other people.  There is no corporate desire to make our society a better, nicer place, and as result, it is not.

I finally got around to watching HBO’s John Adams this week.  It was great.  I noticed that there was indeed a corporate sense of honor and duty that led men to fight and to give their lives without pay, and without even being ordered or asked to.  During those times, a person could strongly disagree with another person.  He could even say that his ideas were ridiculous in print.  But, I also noticed that when they spoke face to face, they always spoke cordially to one another, and referred to the other person as ‘Sir’ even if they were skewering each other at the time.  They might question the man’s sanity or ability to reason, but they never questioned the motives of the other person because, if they did this, they might end up dead.  See Alexander Hamilton for a good example of what happened when people acted without decorum during this time.

People had expectations of other people during this time, and society reacted negatively when a person failed to live up to those expectations.  A good example of these attitudes could also be found in the Adams series.  In it he, John Adams, refused to help his son-in-law, and disowned his own son because they failed to live up to societal expectations.  Later generations still felt the pull of duty and a sense of corporate responsibility.  You only have to go back to WWII to find a time when Americans offered up their sons and themselves to fight in a war.  This was not a war where there might be a chance of getting killed by an insurgent (please do not think I am taking anything away from the bravery and sacrifices made by servicemen today).  It was a war where, if you were in the military, there was a strong likelihood of you suffering death or serious injury.  If you were able-bodied and you did not serve during WWII, you and your family were stigmatized by this decision.

During the 1940s and 1950s people were still expected to perform up to societal standards, and families that did not were also rightly stigmatized.  This corporate societal expectation motivated people to act in a way that was mutually beneficial to all.  It is not so today.  The adoption of the welfare state in cooperation with the elevation of the individual and the advocating of the ideas espoused by relativists have deprived Americans of the corporate disdain that would beneficially keep us all in line (sometimes literally).

Persons without a religion to assist them in attaining a moral compass today, often have no way of attaining any sense that they have a duty to the rest of the people around them to at least treat these people as they would like to be treated.

On this subject, I have no answers, only complaints.  Popular religions continue to cut off their collective noses to spite their faces (see the Baptists boycotting Disney for a good example, but they are not alone).  They seem to drive more people away with the self-serving rants than they bring in.  I believe many young parents would use a church as a good way to instill good morals and mores in their children if the churches would actually stay on message and not veer off to attack Miley Cyrus, for instance, whenever they get bored.  As far as society getting a handle on itself and reestablishing its own set of social mores to help encourage decorum, this would be impossible at this point.  Not only is that horse out of the barn, but that barn has long since burned down.

In the end, we are left with individual choices to do the right thing or not.  Those of us who choose to act with decorum and respect for others while teaching it to or children will be the ones that keep society from completely falling apart.

You still have a choice.  You can be the mean old lady at the end of the block that keeps the ball, and no one will mourn you when you die, or you can be the old lady who gets the ball for the kids along with a cookie.  Which one of these makes more of a mark?