17 Dec Customer service becoming the new oxymoron
Chicago, Ill. – How many companies have you recently dealt with where “customer service” is the latest oxymoron? Everyone wants more for their product or service, yet they want to provide less and less when it comes to giving good service for what they are charging for.
Many companies talk about their customer service programs but evidently their executives do not utilize their own services to check to see if they are really living up to their commercials. In the past, we have focused on the decline of United Airlines with their “nickel-and-dime the customer” strategy on meals to charging for baggage, but they are not the only ones that have lost sight on good customer service.
There are many other large companies vying for that “Clueless Customer Service” award. Some new companies in the running include banks, plumbing supply stores and other places where somehow their management and their lemming employees have made a negative difference in the customers’ perception of their organization.
Bank of America: We make change
Whoever the Bank of America executive was who determined they should get rid of change-counting machines at every branch doesn’t know the banking business. People come in with cups, boxes and coffee cans of change all the time to turn it into paper money. The bank tellers take the change and dump it into the machines, the machines count it and customers are given back paper money immediately. That is what is done at a bank. Not providing that traditional service in each branch should translate into less or no transaction fees.
The new Bank of America approach is to put your money in a big plastic bag, tag it and give you a receipt of the bag (not the amount – just the bag). The teller had to ask another teller how to do all this as she never did it since they put in the new process. It looked very time-consuming compared to just dumping the money into a machine to get a total.
From a security standpoint, how do you know how much you just gave them? What about the other end of the transaction in the counting room or wherever they have the “Master Change Machine”?
How do you know someone is not taking a couple of quarters out of every bag? Where are the safeguards? Is anyone watching the person handling the change? If each branch sends in a bag a day, that could be over a 1,000 bags. Just taking out one quarter a bag would net $250 a day. Who would know? Is your money safe with Bank of America?
If you don’t think that grabbing a quarter out of each bag is beyond the realm of possibilities, you are sadly mistaken. It’s like going to a bakery and asking for a pound of cookies and the clerk telling you to wait as he or she steps in the back to “weigh your purchase” out of your visual sight.
Did they get you a full pound? How do you really know? You want that visual confirmation that they just gave you a pound of whatever in exchange for your cash. The same visual confirmation you want when they throw in all that change to get counted up.
Bring back the change-counting machines at branch offices and make sure that the clueless executive is one of the 35,000 that Bank of America is laying off.
Cost-cutting measures, which seem to provide a career for some clueless executives, have to be compared to the impact of high quality customer service. Many companies who thought sending call centers overseas started bringing them back after too many customer complaints and the actual shifting of accounts.
That is really funny as it was pointed out a couple of years ago in this very column. Where are those executives, who thought that off-shoring their call centers was a great cost-cutting idea? They never looked at the impact to customer service.
There should be a panel discussion about the problems of offshore call centers and get some of those great thinkers together on the panel with those of us that questioned that move years ago.
In contrast to the poorly run call centers, the call center for the Tirerack is one of the best out there. The people know their tire products, they know their applications on different cars and most importantly, they treat all customers with a high-level of service as they input all your information on a data base and the next time you call, all your car information is known.
Correlation between clueless and bailouts
Companies with poor customer service also seem to be the ones looking for bailouts and other crutches to keep afloat. After years of turning out inferior quality cars and giving executive big bonuses, Detroit is finally feeling the crunch of twenty-year low sales. Why do you think that is?
It’s not just the extra $1,500 a car for health care costs to employees. That’s the excuse they always say to justify their non-competitiveness in the marketplace. The reality is it’s there are many shortcomings from overpay for executives to poor quality cars compared to what a consumer can get from a dealer across the street.
The auto industry needs a big overhaul, including a restructuring bankruptcy. Jobs will be lost in any approach. Unions have to adjust and so do the executives. If they want the unions to be more competitive, the executive pay should also reflect their competitors’ pay structure. Anyone who thinks differently does not take into account all the issues.
The best comeback for poor customer service
When it comes to restaurants, there is no better barometer of the quality of service then the individuals serving you at your table. The place you may go to may only be a cheap restaurant or an inexpensive chain location but in many of them, their highest symbols of customer service are their great servers.
At one Chicago suburban restaurant where I went for breakfast, I specifically asked for my potatoes to be extra well done. After waiting a long time, the breakfast came and I sent the potatoes back. After waiting more time, they came back again and were still what I call raw. I told the server and she said, “Well that’s the best we can do on Sundays.” I ate the breakfast and left the potatoes along with a quarter tip.
As I left, I said, “That’s the best I can do on Sundays.” I never went there again.
How does this relate to large companies and their customer service? Take away enough service from your customer and you will see your profits drop, if not totally disappear.
Carlini-ism: Anyone can have a failure; it’s what he or she does after to correct it that differentiates the good companies from the bad.
Previous article by James Carlini
This article previously appeared in MidwestBusiness.com, and was reprinted with its permission.
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