Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Customer Service

We do a lot of bitching these days about poor business practices, so it's useful to focus on good practices when they occur. Some recent examples of good customer service:

Les Schwab: This isn't the first time that I've had good service from them. We've both bought tires from them in the past and will continue to do so. The co-signer called one morning to tell me that she had a flat tire. She had driven it down to the van pool meeting spot in Fred Meyer's lot when she noticed the flat. She rode into work, then called me. I was dreading taking care of the tire as I didn't want to lose my entire morning before work. The co-signer called up Les Schwab. They had a person go out and fill the tire with air. That person called me to tell me he was at Fred Meyer's and then he waited for me to arrive. The tire now full of air drove fine to the shop down the road. When I got there, thinking I'd have to buy a new tire, the guys tested it in a water tank. As it turned out, it was a small leak. They fixed the tire and didn't charge me a cent for the service. Label me a loyal customer.

McClendon Hardware: I use a reel mower in my yard. It's one of those old fashioned kind that doesn't have an engine and the blades rotate with the tires. Last fall the blades seemed in need of sharpening as I wasn't getting the cut or ease of cut that I'd come to expect. After using the neighbor's mower to do the initial spring cut, I took my mower in to get the blades sharpened. Normally this takes about a week and only costs around $6. When I got to McClendon the service person told me that their sharpening guy (they contract out) was going on holiday for 2 weeks. So, if I dropped off the mower then I wouldn't get it back for 3 weeks. I asked if they had a suggestion about where else to take it. The service person came from behind the counter and took a look at my mower. He said the blades appeared OK, but the bed of the mower was off (a little low). Within minutes he had propped up my mower and adjusted the bed of it. I've done 2 passes over the yard and it's working fine. I might wait until late summer when the grass goes dormant to get the blades sharpened now.

Costco: Yea, I know - a big box store. However, they offer one of the best prices for gasoline around. We stopped there on Saturday morning before going to Portland. While there, I forgot and left the gas cap on top of the truck. We didn't realize the error until on our way back. I called them yesterday. The number to the gas attendant wasn't available on line or in their automatic phone directory. I tried calling the administrative offices, but they weren't answering so I got in touch with the tire department. The person who answered didn't have the number at hand, but he sent one of his employees to get the number for me. After that, I called the gas attendant and sure enough they had the cap labeled with the date and when it was turned in. I stopped by and picked it up yesterday.

Good customer service should be noted and rewarded. I'm going to send thank you notes to all of these places. It's difficult working with the public. Depending upon where you work it can be especially so. Take the liquor store, for example. I had the following incident happen last week.

Customer: "Why is it that the downtown store sells this whiskey for 50 cents cheaper?"
Me: "Are you sure about that? Maybe it was this other one you're thinking of?" Taking the customer over to the display. Same maker; same size; different blend and 50 cents cheaper.
Customer: "No, it's this one. I always buy this one. Don't you think I know what I'm talking about?"
Me: "I'm not questioning that. It's just that the prices are set in Olympia and are all the same at all of the stores."
Customer: "It's 50 cents cheaper downtown. Go ahead. Call them. I'm not a liar. I'm not trying to pull one over on ya."
Me: "Well, you see, that's not how it works. That's why I pointed out the other bottle, in case you were mistaken."
Customer: "Go ahead. Call them."
Me: "I'm not going to call them, ma'am, because the way the system works is a database person puts the price of the liquor into the system as directed to do so. Then all of the stores have the same price."
Customer: "All you have to do is pick up the phone." She begins walking away. "Jeesh. What is it about lazy government employees?"
Me: "Ma'am?"
Customer (voice rising): "All you have to do is pick up the fucking phone and call the other store."
Me: "Ma'am?"
Customer, now screaming: "But you won't even do that! You're such fucking assholes!"
Me: "Ma'am?"
Customer: "What?!!?"
Me, calmly and pointing to the other door: "This asshole wants to point out that the exit is over there."

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