Customer Service – Where Did It Go?
Recently I took a quick two day business trip to Denver, Colorado. On my trip I discovered that somewhere during all the hustle and bustle of life someone killed “Customer Service.” On the day of my departure, I arrived early at the Memphis International Airport. The Northwest Airlines ticket line was long…good thing I was early. After a good 30 minutes in line I was told my flight was cancelled and so was the second and third flight. After some aggressive negotiations with Northwest, they finally found a flight to Denver.
Ten hours later, three different planes, two different airlines and lost luggage I made it to my hotel. Yes, during all the shuffling around and cancelled flights the kid behind the counter told me that my bag never left Memphis…”Sorry,” he said. All I had with me were the clothes on my back, briefcase and a sour taste in my mouth for Northwest Airlines.
I needed clean clothes…maybe the hotel could help. The nice young lady (15 years old at best) behind the hotel counter told me precisely where the washer and dryers were. I asked if room service could launder my clothes for me. She rambled off something about company policy…of course she didn’t have a clue what I was asking. I told her that I didn’t mind walking around the hotel naked while my clothes were washing, but some of the other guests might. Finally she got the message. A cab was called so I could do some last minute shopping at Target.
My business was done. Time to go home. I stood there shoeless in the security line, as I watched the security guard drag out my dirty socks from my computer brief case. I know everyone saw me blush. “Should have thrown those away”, I thought. Just before boarding my plane back to Memphis, my cell phone rang. “Sir, great news…your bag just arrived in Denver.” Problem. I was about to board my plane and baggage claim was three train rides and another long humiliating wait through the security line. “My plane leaves in 10 minutes!” They said for my ‘convenience” they would put my bag on the next plane to Memphis. This was the last time I would ever use Northwest Airlines.
You have had similar experiences. I would also bet that most of you have had problems pumping your own gas, or have had to bag your own groceries…better yet check yourself out in line. You have had flights delayed, rental cars break down, the waitress forget your order, or my favorite — you have called ‘Customer Service’ and talked to a recording for 30 minutes. At least I hope you have experienced poor service…I would hate to think that I am the only one. What has this rant about Northwest Airlines and poor customer service have to do with the Mechanical industry? I am getting to that. Be patient, or I will make you listen to a recording for 30 minutes before getting to my point. Just kidding…keep reading.
This summer was a hot one. Record temperatures where set in Memphis for sure. We had weeks without rain and weeks with temperatures between 97°-106° F. Air Conditioning equipment all over the city never cycled off. They are of course man-made machines, and, lets face it, man isn’t perfect so neither is your HVAC equipment. Under such abuse they will break down. HVAC service departments were busy, and as mechanical contractors we love the heat. This is the time where we HVAC service providers can wipe the sweat from our brows with $100 dollar bills. It’s also the time when good service providers shine, and others fail.
Hot summers (like we have had in Memphis) will put an HVAC company to the test. So in this edition of Mechanical Matters®, we will discuss ways to improve customer service. Maybe your HVAC company let you down, or maybe you let someone down in your business. If so please keep reading.
“The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.” – SAM WALTON
Below are my five most important Do’s and Don’ts in Customer Service. Apply them when choosing an HVAC service provider, or better yet apply them to your business and you will be amazed how fast your company will prosper:
1. “HONESTY AND ACTION”
Sometimes in the ‘service’ business you will have bad news for you customer. Maybe, an order wasn’t shipped on time, the delivery truck broke down, or the factory sent your customer apples instead of oranges. How do you tell the customer?
Don’t avoid their phone calls or pass them off to the factory’s hotline for complaints.
Do call them first before they receive the bad news on their own. Instead of avoiding the situation entirely, face the music. Tell them you wanted to be the first to let them know that their order is wrong, and you are actively making every effort to correct it.
Sure you will get an ear full from the customer, but I can assure you that honesty and action will go a long way with your customer. If you are proactive your customer will notice a difference between you and the other guy who cowardly turned his phone off until the dust settled.
2. “NEVER SAY SORRY”
This is a tough one, and it may sound a bit arrogant, so let me explain. Saying you’re ‘sorry’ to someone is just that…you are confirming that you are a sorry person for letting this happen to them. custom logo dress socks