I am a loyal customer. I go out of my way to give repeat business to retailers who go out of their way to make my day. It’s not often this occurs, but when it does, take note. In today’s society of twenty minute hold times and unhelpful teenage employees, it’s great to find places that still will take the time to do things right.
Surprisingly, I’ve had some great customer service recently. Last weekend, I went to Joseph A. Banks to buy a suit. Not only did I get a better deal than I was expecting, the salesman walked me down to another tailor shop to have it fitted since his tailor was on vacation. He could have pointed in the general direction and said, “Take it down there”. But instead, he took the time to walk down there, introduce me to the tailor, and make sure that I was taken care of. Last week, I wired some money to a friend of mine using Western Union. I called the company to send the cash but was graciously told by the customer service associate that I could save about $15 doing it online. After going online and placing my order, I received an email saying that my transaction had a problem and that I needed to call an agent. I did, worried that I’d spend the evening on the phone fighting to just send the money. However, my problem was resolved within 5 minutes. Last night, I was at Big Lots. I saw a watch that I liked, but the battery was dead and the watch band was too large. I asked my sales associate when I was checking out if I could get a discount on the watch because of this. She gave me one that almost covered the cost of having the jeweler replace the battery and fit the band today.
I certainly have my fair share of crappy service, but I’d rather not bore you with the stories of these instances. You probably have your own stories that could rival or top mine. But there must be a reason for the deterioration of service. I think it lies with the attitude of those in customer service and also the relationship they have with the product. With the advent of voice-over-IP service, companies can affordably outsource their technical support and call centers where they please. Many times this is in India or other foreign nations. In theory, I don’t find anything wrong with this. Companies want to save money and it’s cheaper to buy labor in India than it is to buy labor here. Except when you have English speaking Americans buying the company’s product and needing customer service, problems arise. After watching a television documentary on call centers in India, it is apparent that there are problems with the system. Employees are given exact things to say because they don’t know any more English. Employees are instructed to lie about the location of the call center and are given the weather for their false location in the United States. This sort of thing really doesn’t foster the kind of relationship that breeds repeat customers.
I pay more for good customer service. I’ll shop at Joseph A. Banks instead of Sears because the guy I talk to at Joseph A. Banks knows what he’s talking about. I’ll buy paint at Sherwin Williams instead of Lowe’s because the kid I’m buying paint from at Lowe’s never even painted his red wagon. I’ll shop at the local grocery store instead of Walmart because the guy at the local store will cut my meat the way I like it without me having to explain each week how it’s done. But most American consumers are not willing to pay a few extra pennies for the care and attention of good retailers. This is why companies are able to get away with hiring people who are fluent in English and have never seen the product before to troubleshoot it.
Maybe Americans as a whole will never again have a relationship with the people who sell them things, but I think the number will grow as they become increasingly dissatisfied with the way they are treated by the companies they do business with. And when that occurs, there will be some who can sit back, smirk, and say, “I told you so.”