Thursday, October 21, 2010

Complaining: Part II

I got an email from a really good friend of mine (great story around this which I won't relate in this blog :p).

Baillie has worked in customer services for awhile now. I met her when she was working in a Blockbuster store. She works in a bread shop at the moment.

Here's the email:

Okay, so I started to write this for you a couple of times now. I thought your blog on complaining about bad customer service had a point, but I am always cautious when people are advised to complain. there are the reasonable folk, who only genuinely complain if something is seriously wrong, then there are the overly entitled folk. This is for them:

It Is Not Bad Customer Service, It’s Your Own Damn Fault For Being Awkward

(Yes, I know it’s a little on the wordy side. I’ll work on that)

Are you a customer who feels you are not being treated fairly/well/reasonably by a retail employee? Before you ask for their manager please check this list below:

Time – Is it only just opening time? All that standing at the window tapping your watch is not going to make the shop open any faster, in fact, now it will take even longer once you add the amount of time it takes for the employee to walk over to tell you that yes, your watch may say 9.00am, but their store clock still says 8.55. In these instances they might be forced to delay opening until 9.02.

Conversely is it 5 minutes to closing? Unless you are about to spend $500 in the shop, don’t even bother coming in. It is a well documented phenomenon that customers who approach a store close to closing time exhibit two clear behaviours:

  1. They will walk around the shop for 10 minutes and complain that there is nothing there they wanted anyway.
  2. Spend the same amount of time in the shop, only with the added questions “so what’s on special” (customer speak for “what will you give me to go away”). Total customer spend? $2.50. Total additional wages for 2 employees for the company? $2.08
There is a third type of behaviour designed solely to give new retail employees hope:
  1. The customer who is only late because they stopped to rescue baby kittens from the burning orphanage, grab what they need straight away, have the correct money for/working EFTPOS card and are out in three minutes.
Which fortunately for them is quashed by the angry lady arriving at 3.59 wanting to know why you can’t make her a quadruple shot latte/six pizzas/birthday cake right now.

There may also be on occasion, a time where the shop is closed a few minutes before the usual time. This comes about because no customers have entered the store for the previous hour, all the work has been done and most bizarrely, because we may have friends/family we want to get home to spend time with.
It’s not to spite you. Unless you’re the lady above who wants a birthday cake.

Timing – The bastard subset of the above category. If you need a special order, require extra information or just need some extra time to talk with an employee do not, DO NOT, DO NOTeat your arm if you do not let them buy their giant sandwich, cookie and diet coke.

try to do this at lunchtime. Quadruply so if you are in a food service place and not actually buying food right at that moment, rather enquiring after something you may (or let’s face it, probably not) order in the future. You see those people behind you? The angry hungry looking ones who have been starving since their 10.30am Mars Bar wore off at 10.45? They will
Things lunchtime is not for:
  • Indecision
  • Small change
  • Asking for something that is clearly not on display anywhere in the shop
Which leads me nicely to:
“The Back” – Lets be clear on this, the only thing we have in “the back” is duplicates of what’s already on the shop floor. It isn’t a secret Aladdin's cave of stuff we think is too nice for customers. In fact, we have a special term for when you absolutely insist that we “check in back” it’s called a free 5 minute break. Because that’s how long we want you to think we looked for.

So let's review the lesson:
  • Don’t come in too early
  • Don’t come in too late
  • Don’t make us hold other people up
And the golden rule:
  • Don’t ask for something out “back”
If customers abide by these simple rules they will find us retail peons much easier to get along with
Wow, that’s more than I’ve written in ages. Look what you made me do! Annoyed


The woman asking for a birthday cake and coffees a minute before closing puts me in mind of one of the complaints I received while working for a courier company.

The way the courier industry works is "cycles". These are 2-3 hours long and then all of the vans come into the depot, drop off their pick up's and pick up their deliveries. While the vans are out, the packages are sorted, moved into baskets for the various satellite branches etc.

It all works fairly well. The only thing, courier drivers have families too and sometimes even enjoy a little sleep. They start anywhere between 6am and 7am. The last cycle started at 3pm. So the bookings for pick ups needed to be in by 3pm for us to have any confidence that their package would get picked up.

It was 6 o'clock - my finishing time. The call centre was open for another 1/2 hour.

Anyway, I took a call from a woman wanting a pick up... for tonight. I had to explain to her that I could make the booking but that I couldn't in anyway assure her that it would be picked up that evening.

"But we have an account with you".

I probably could have handled this a little better. I paused waiting for more. That was it? "Be that as it may, it is pretty close to the end of the day and we work on a system of cycles. We really need bookings for pick ups to be in by 3. There's a pretty good probability that your courier driver has been past your premises and is trying to finish his day given the long hours he works."

"So what good is the account?"

I shrugged my shoulders. This of course isn't communicated terribly well over the phone. "The account does not entitle you to services outside of the hours we offer". That should sort it out.

"Well, in that case, I want to cancel my account".

'Oh here we go', thought I. 'A bluff'. "Okay, I can get your account manager to give you a call in the morning. I just need your account number".

"But don't you have it up on your screen?".

By this stage I was getting a bit ratty. This phone call was stopping me from going home (I had already missed a bus so it was going to be quite a wait). I had tried to get her account information from her earlier in the call. She'd not been co-operative.

"I'm sorry Maam, I'm not a mind reader."

I've never seen the acting team leader move so fast (this was quite a feat) once advised that the customer wanted to talk to her.

So another complaint against my name. Being reasonable in a complaint goes a long way to being treated the way that you expect to be treated.

There were a few scenarios where, if a complaint had been made, and the complaint taken seriously, it would have improved the call centre.

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