Saturday, 28 May 2011

Customer Service "or" What?

There's a knock-off saying from the more familiar one: "The customer is always right - and usually ugly, too!"  I tend to think that the kind of ugly to which this refers, does not always mean that of the physical kind.  You know, the sort that doesn't fit with our societal construct and perception of beauty?  No siree! I have come to believe that the ugly implied in that tongue-in-cheek remark, does sometimes refer to the customer's conduct, behaviour, if you will - especially when the candour of his/her retort is unexpected.

Let's take the scene a few months ago.  I approach the customer service desk, the relevant card in hand, ready to make a payment to my account.  (After all, the flyer that the company mailed to me earlier that week did say that I could come in with either card or statement. As I was already on the road, I figured I could just drop in and be done with it.)  I produce my card.  She looks at me. She  proceeds to explain that I need the statement.  I point out the operative "or" ('cause that's what I do). She repeats herself.  I proceed to explain that it would take me about 40 minutes of highway driving to get home and get back with the statement.  Plus, I continue, their flyer did say "or".  Her explanation is stuck on repeat.  I ask to speak with the manager.  He approaches their side of the counter.  I explain why I expect my payment to be accepted, even though I do not have the statement.  He pretty much gives the same explanation - they are the store; the card company is independent of them. They need to see the number on the statement, which is not necessarily the same on the card.  I tell him the number on the statement - only the last two digits are different.  He still needs to see it.  I now take the time to point out the "or" on his flyer.  He says something about seeing to a change in the copy because it is in fact misleading.  I leave to go home to get the statement.

While there, I call the card company.  As I had imagined they would have, they explain that the card alone is fine. They are able to update the account whether payment is made to the card number or the statement number.  I sigh.

I head back to the store. I explain what the card company said. The manager apologizes for my inconvenience and assures that he would check in with corporate re the the copy and recommend a revision.

Fast forward to last week. I have both statement and card to close the store's account. The sad part now?  I do not have page 2.  I have page 1 with the account number that they'd asked for the last time, but I do not have page 2 with the transaction numbers (single digits, mind you).  The guy at the counter says he needs the trans numbers. I tell him I know both of them by heart.  He still needs to see page 2.  He checks in with his supervisor - Ms. CSR from a few months ago. I tell her I know which is which.  She insists that I need page 2 for them to allocate the funds to the correct trans numbers.  I remind her that the last time I was there, I had to drive all the way back. She apologizes.  THEN she suggests that I could call the card company using the phone at the other end of the counter! The counter!  Right there! They would be able to confirm the trans numbers and then she would be able to apply the funds accordingly.  And I'm thinking, why did you not suggest that in the first place?  Couldn't that have been done the last time and save me gas and time and effort?

When it was all over, I asked the guy to beckon to her as I really needed to talk to her.  As she made her way over to the counter, I could feel myself taking deep breaths as I tried to maintain my cool.  As I relayed to her my disbelief that there had in fact been an option all along - a simple call to the card company, from their store!!! - I questioned why customers aren't given that option in the first place!  Why would they insist, as if it were cast in concrete, that customers who turn up without their statements leave and return later that day (if they have the time) or another day?  And, yet, the stupid "or" is still sitting there, ensconced between "statement" and "card".  (I didn't say stupid.  I just pointed out the fact that their flyer (yes, they'd sent another) still had the "or"!)  Her explanation was that they don't want to encourage that option, as customers would be taking a risk if they're not sure of their trans numbers and can apply funds to wrong trans numbers etc.  And I'm thinking, and finally said, that the customers should be the ones to decide to take that risk.  Give them the option! Moreover, with the quick phone call, once the customer ascertains the trans number, he/she gives it to the store's CSR. The CSR simply writes it on the receipt after payment and the customer initials it - taking responsibility wrt where the funds are going.  That's what they had me do.  I really wanted to reach out and touch her around the neck! Cho!

She went on about understanding my frustration and again apologized for the inconvenience but wanted to assure me that they are in fact addressing the matter of the misleading copy on the flyer (no doubt from my previous point out - maybe others had done their own pointing out, too.  Who knows?) Again with the understanding, but it's in the interest of the customer blah blah blah.  In the end, I didn't even say thanks for her promise to follow up.  I just sighed - exasperatedly - and left.

So, I guess I was both right and perceived to be ugly that day.  I didn't raise my voice. But, I did feel bad after about not saying thanks, and for leaving so abruptly.  As I replayed it, I imagined that I can be right without being rude. That was my little lesson from that episode.  At the same time, however, I did feel a slight satisfaction that I communicated my frustration and the reason for it.  It can't be right that they turn people away (as they had done with me the first time) when there is a phone-call option just at the end of the counter!

Like I tweeted the other day, there really is a difference between customer service to die for and customer service that just kills you!


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Turning Back a Few Pages

I've found some sweet spots on the pages of Facebook. Yeah.  Let's just dive right in, shall we?

Having decided to be open in my Cyopro connections on FB, I've been transported back to a time about which I have really precious memories.  I've connected with people I met and knew in my twenties; people who cared to groom me and inspire me and look out for me - that sorta thing.  And, I've simply embraced the transport and the nice feelings that come with it.  We've touched based, shared a little, laughed (the LOL kind) a lot. But, invariably, it's with the comfort's okay.  I don't have to wonder about probable hidden agendas; chips on shoulders; slight narcissism - you know, the kinds of things you are hap to discover in one or two people as you discover...yourself.

True, I've spoken before about linking with people you haven't seen from Adam.  That you never know how they have been shaped and by what: whether it's something from which you'd want to stay far far away.  However, I'm talking about a connection with older folks (I'd say not so much to be my mother, but they were, in a sense, pretty motherly); folks who were eager to affirm my strength and drive and self esteem and potential...  They were not afraid of doing so because they themselves stood secure in who they were.  That's how it seemed to me, and I've had no reason to doubt it.  So often we find that some stay clear of affirming the strength and beauty of others (not that they're needed to validate all that!) it's like, it'll diminish them in some way if they do.

But not these.  They gave of self and support.  That's how I remember it.  That's what has stayed with me from the season we spent together years ago.  And, it brings a smile when I read a message saying how proud they are of me!

As in every nostalgic episode, I imagine, we seek out and cling to that which makes us feel all happy and gay and free and at ease! (Yeah, that's what I said.)  We cling to that which makes us experience, in some way, the comfort and security we felt at that point in time.  I get it.  That is what has happened/is happening to me where these special connections - reconnections - are concerned.

And, I like!

They'll probably read this post one day so I say, thank you, Faith and Pat! (They did say I could drop the Mrs. this and Mrs. that! :-)


Sunday, 8 May 2011

Online Legacy

Believe it or not, this is post number 100!  Wow.  I just love round numbers and celebrating milestones, don't you?  And when they come together, even better.

Today is Mothers' Day and I could not help but notice the outpouring of love and affection on Facebook.  Yes, right after talking to my mom (along with my sisters) on the phone this morning, that's where I headed.   Visiting there more often than before these days,  and have come to realize a thing or two.

For example, the other day when this guy passed on, having committed a horrible and atrocious act (murder-suicide), folks took to his FB page to comment (read: vent and curse).  It was something to behold. I stood from a distance and watched.  The posters started turning on each other as they took sides  - no holds (nor language) barred.  Finally, about 500+ comments later, the page went down. 

After telling her about an experience I'd had shortly after starting my more frequent visits to FB, my lil sis gave me a bit of heads-up.  I'd commented on a post from a friend and someone else made another comment disagreeing.  On top of that, she added a term that, when interpreted, was essentially dismissive.   And I'm thinking: "I don't even know you?! Why would you do that?"  Lil sis 'warned' that, even in that space where you have mutual friends, some people just don't include care in their responses.  There is not always that civility that we have come to know and love. 

I know.  I've talked about this some, a few posts back.  On the whole matter of our online presence, however, it used to be that we had just this “version” of life to consider – our offline selves. Now, what happens to our online selves when we die? All that information remains “out there”, in blogs, tweets, professional and social networking sites and the like.  Depending on the content, some of it may continue to be helpful to others – inspiring, educational etc. – other parts, not so much.  In any case, in a kind of ironic twist, it lives on.  This may give insight into why many of us create something online in the first place.  It gives us a space to create that which is uniquely us; something that will outlive us and something by which we will (hopefully) be remembered.

Interestingly, however, it also creates an opportunity for others to do what they will with that online legacy or memory.  Where there is free access, free will reigns.  And, given the multiplicity of degrees of separation, especially when exacerbated by the thick wall of anonymity, comments can and do get downright insensitive, vicious and vitriolic.  Such is the nature of this beast that emerges in these situations.  It sinks its teeth into the jugular and rips you apart, simply because it has the means, the motive and the opportunity; sometimes, simply because it can. 

Users of these spaces will quickly realize that they are not controlled environments – in the truest sense.  There are privacy settings, yes.  However, unless we wish to log in and talk only with ourselves, every connection we make constitutes a conscious act of inviting a “whole other person” into your life.  Persons come with their own beliefs, values, biases etc.,  which are not always in sync with ours.  And, as offline, we do not have control over what people think and say.  The natural human tendency is to respond to comments - especially defamatory ones – made about us and those we love.  We can easily, therefore, find ourselves in a quagmire no less agonizing and fruitless than trying to herd cats!   

Well, this greater frequency of exchanges has been enlightening.  Still, there have also been some very favourable moments as well.  (More about those in another post.)  Suffice it to say, I've found a few sweet spots on FB...