Friday, January 2, 2009

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

I'd like to think that I stand up for what I believe in. But I also admit that there are times when I just let things slide because I just don't see what my voice will do to help change the situation. In other words, I go and vote when it's time to do that, but it's been a long time since I marched on anything. 

Don't worry, though. This isn't going to be a political posting. On the contrary--this posting is going to be about Customer Service.

You see, I've spent a lot of time in Customer Service. I've worked in Retail and in "In-bound" (that means I've never been a telemarketer) Phone Customer service, and in the world of ticket sales, I've spent a lot of time serving various versions of the public.

I think I'm pretty good at the whole Customer Service (CS) deal, but I know I'm not the best person to be on the front lines. Unfortunately, there are days when I know that my emotions are going to take over and it takes me a few deep breaths to get my composure back. I'm not good at letting things slide when a customer insinuates that I'm an idiot. And I'm even harder to be around if that customer belittles someone on my staff. But give me a chance to walk away (or--when working on phones--a moment or two with a mute button), and I can get right back to it with a smile.

These days, I'm much more likely to contact a supervisor to compliment someone than to complain. When I'm on the phone with someone who gives me great service, I'll hang on the line for another five minutes if it means I can commend them to someone in a supervisory position. I've filled out those "get a free burger" surveys on fast-food restaurant receipts just so I could say how great service was. And I love how surprised and happy both the Customer Service worker and his/her supervisor is when they get the compliments. That's a good feeling.

All of which is simply my way of saying that I'm about to complain about some CS issues I've dealt with this week, and I want you to know that I'm aware of how hard it can be. 

I was in the Mac store this week (New Year's Eve, in fact) to purchase a new power adaptor cord (apparently this is a frequent thing to replace, if you look at the reviews on Mac's own pages). I had called in advance to make sure they had them in stock, and then headed over to the store. 

I'm used to our local Mac store being a chaotic mess. I've been there enough times when it was like that that I now get anxious before going in and my stomach almost hurts. When I was approaching the store, I thought I was going to break into cold sweats. As I walked in, people in pale blue t-shirts were whizzing past me, but no one even glanced my direction. I couldn't find anyone to ask about the cord they were holding for me, so I searched the shelves and found one on my own. 

I stood in the middle of the store, product in hand, for a good 2 or 3 minutes, with people in blue shirts crissing and crossing all around me, but not a single one stopping when I tried to flag them down. Finally I found a "concierge" who glanced at me and said "You want to buy that?" and kind of waved me along to follow him. Over the next 5 minutes, we walked to the front of the store and he proceeded to scan my purchase, then answer questions for a few people. He took my card, then went to help someone, and came back asking me for my card--which I pointed out he was already holding. Overall, I think I had his attention for about 10 seconds--and that was while he was asking me if I wanted a receipt printed or emailed to me. 

I left the store with my purchase but I was so frustrated that I couldn't see straight. I absolutely love my Mac products. I have a Mac Classic from the late 80s, an iMac from around 2000, and my current MacBook Pro. I wouldn't trade them for anything, but I'd consider giving them up if it meant I could get decent service when I go into a Mac store. 

I came home and Christopher wanted to know why I was so agitated. I explained my experience, and he suggested I look for the cord at Best Buy, instead. Now, I'm not a huge proponent of Best Buy and the whole "big box" movement, but on non-chaotic sales days, they do tend to have good CS--if you can find someone in the right department. I spent yesterday pondering my dilemma and debating what to do, and then I realized that the answer was right in front of me: I needed to put my money where my mouth is.

Which brings us to today. I went to Best Buy and bought a power cord for my computer. Then I drove to the mall and headed for the Mac store. The concierge at the door asked what I needed and sent me to "that area over there by the guy in the red shirt--he's not going to help you, but someone else will meet you there who will." About 5 minutes later, when I had been joined by 4 other people obviously sent by the front door concierge, that "someone else" did show up and processed my return. He was very nice. He listened to me when I explained why I was returning the cord. He apologized for the situation. Honestly, if I had gotten that much service when I bought the cord, I probably wouldn't have returned it. But it was too little and too late.

I know that the folks at Apple will still be getting my money. And that the Mac stores are probably never going to figure out that an actual FINDABLE Customer Service desk would solve so much of their customers' frustration. 

In the meantime, I've decided that if I'm going to spend money, I'm going to do it somewhere where it seems to be appreciated. And... well... who knows...? 

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