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April 10, 2013

ABBOTT: Turns out customer service isn’t dead after all

This week, I had three experiences with customer services. Here are the stories, and then, a question.

At the package store:

I mailed our son a big package this week (nothing says love like a boatload of processed foods) and didn’t have a box large enough at home. I piled all the goodies in a laundry basket (husband’s suggestion) and headed to the package store.

I parked in the lot across from the store, a little distance. I saw the three young people behind the counter, and there were no customers in the store.

The laundry basket was heavy and bulky, and I had to set it on the ground to lock the car. I struggled to carry it in and again set it on the ground to open the store’s door.

The three workers saw the whites of my eyes. Yet they just stood there and watched me struggle.

I went inside and paid the outrageous price for the box I did not have at home (going to be better about recycling).

I couldn’t let it go. After they took my money, I nicely suggested that when a customer is standing at the door with a package, they might want to open the door. All three of them looked at me like I had neon green hair (not a good example for people in their 20s).

OK, let’s say they looked at me like Beyoncé wearing nothing but a panty girdle. (Girdle? No? I give up.)

At the sandwich shop:

I purchased sandwiches for dinner and the youngish-manager directed his even younger-worker bee to put my sandwiches in a bag. He did and I said, “Thank you.”

He said, “No problem.”

Now, I kept my mouth shut, but the next time I won’t.

“No problem” is not the right thing to say. He should say, “No, thank YOU” or “My pleasure.”

No problem implies that it could have been a problem. Giving good service should not be something that puts the server out of his way.

Yeah, problem.

With the appliance repairman:

We had a minor problem with our dishwasher. I called the national chain from which we purchased four appliances on the same day in 2011. On the phone, the helpful customer service representative said, “I can see how not having your dishwasher is a problem. I’m going to get someone out there today.”

What? Did I just hear that? It really wasn’t a huge problem; I am able to wash dishes the old-fashioned way.

The repair man showed up on time and fixed the problem which involved resetting the dishwasher in its cradle. He asked my opinion about where the cover should be flush, against the cabinets or the piece that comes up from the floor. Let me repeat that: he asked my opinion.

Turns out repair was covered by warranty, so there was no charge.

Oh, and did I mention as he came in the front door he saw the vent to my dryer, and said to me, “Can I clean that out for you? I work on dryers and it needs to be cleaned.”

Thought and a question:

My thought about these three encounters is this. There’s an old adage in sales and marketing that if you do something well, your customer will tell one person, but if you do something badly, your customer will tell 10 people.

Of the three encounters, which two will I most likely gab about, and which two will I probably won’t go to again?

Amy McVay Abbott is a freelance journalist and author of “The Luxury of Daydreams.” She can be reached at amymcvayabbott@gmail.com.

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