Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Help Wanted: Hines Plumbing


Hines Plumbing ...these guys are like a good (not great) relationship; the end result is satisfying but you might be doing most of the calling! Jack the owner is very upfront about cost which is helpful if you are on a tight budget like we are. We have called them for a number of issues from a leaking sink to a flooding basement. I have had to call a few times to confirm appointment times or even get them to come out but since we have a relationship already I haven't given up and called someone else. Persistence here seems to get me the guy in the end, right? But I'm paying them...wow, lots of joke potential there right?

My only true disappointment was when they assessed the front water and sewer lines needed to be replaced they didn't warn us what the yard would look like when they were through. Destroyed. War torn. Embarrassing. Sure, they tried to do a bit with the dirt pile and spread some grass seed after I asked, but they sure aren't landscapers! I almost cried and I'm not a crier. I would suggest they thoroughly prepare homeowners so they can budget in the cost of fixing the yard afterwards...maybe even link up with a landscaper to pass businesses on to.

One of the Hines guys also told me my water delivery pipe from the city water was still lead but wasn't supposed to be. I was so grateful he let me know. He suggested I call the city and ask them to replace it. Since lead is most harmful to children and pregnant women you can imagine I might have considered getting hysterical. I stayed cool and called the city and they said they were treating the water to protect it from lead pipes. I said I didn't care and was still uncomfortable with that. They were in front of my house within a week tearing up the street to replace the pipes...THAT was great customer service and I didn't pay a dime!

Interesting note-Hines Plumbing is only three guys! The shiny trucks and excellent marketing (have you seen the toilet signs???) make it look like a large company so I was very impressed with the marketing campaign.

To carry on with the relationship analogy; using Hines Plumbing is kind of like dating a snappy dresser who sometimes brings you dinner ingredients but then you still have to cook it yourself! Hines Plumbing....I like 'em, just be ready to keep calling them.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Help WANTED: www.Borders.com

Help Wanted: www.borders.com
By Heather Curlee Novak with Lee Burdorf, Guest Blogger

My friend Lee sent me this story about his experience with Borders Books online:

I ordered a book online from Borders.com. I feel badly about their closing the store here and having problems. So, I thought I would give them some business.
When you order things online you usually get an instant confirmation by email. When I hadn't received the email confirmation after several hours, I decided to call Borders to see if there was a problem. After sifting through several recorded messages, I got a live human. But he obviously was in a foreign country, probably India.* I could barely understand him and it took forever to explain to him my problem. I was on the phone with him for an agonizing 20- to 30 minutes and he was still unable to find my order. Finally, I asked if I could speak to his Supervisor. A woman came on the line and told me they had my order but for some reason it hadn't been processed yet.

I decided to be patient and wait 24 hours and see what happened. After 24 hours, I still hadn't received any confirmation so I called again. Again, I got a foreigner, this time a woman. Again, it was almost impossible to understand her and it took her about 15 minutes to find my order. Finally, I just told her to cancel the order and she said she would.

I then ordered the book from Amazon.com and the book arrived in the mail a few days later. The next day, the same book arrived from Borders. I have been charged twice for the book despite asking for the order to be canceled. There was no way I was going through the India phone calls again, so I emailed them and basically wrote the same story I just recounted here. It's been three days now and I have received no reply.

It's only 18 dollars and I think it's worth that not to have to deal with them again. But I will never order anything from Borders again and I suppose it is justice that they're going out of business with service like this.

NOTE: Lee sent me an email the next day. "They may have spoiled the whole thing. They sent me an email with a form to take to FedEx to return the book and get my money back."


Ordering online can be fabulously expedient or brain numbingly frustrating depending on the situation. Lee's second email that "they may have spoiled the whole (customer service report) thing" by finally taking care of the problem is inaccurate. They took care of the problem too late and the onus is still on him as the customer to fix their problem. Frankly I see the most customer friendly response is for them to tell him to keep the book, credit his account and send him a gorgeous credit to try them again for something in the future. That would likely impress him into trying them again.

From a business standpoint, his last sentence is very telling. "It's only 18 dollars and I think it's worth that not to have to deal with them again." Not only is he annoyed, but he thinks it is valuable enough to NEVER deal with them again he is close to HAPPY TO PAY to GET RID OF THEM!

Business owners beware, most of your disgruntled customers will not only never return, but they will tell everyone they know at the same time how unhappy they are--never breathing a word to you. In order to offer excellent customer service a business must be on the offensive. They must look for opportunities to seduce and woo all customers--especially those who are unhappy with any step in the process.

* I think it is important to note something about comments in this blog about call centers in foreign countries, particularly India. These comments are NOT intended to belittle the people of India or anyone for whom English is a second (or third or fourth) language. It is a known method in business to save dollars though overseas call centers. This unfortunately often leads to a frustrating and complicated communication process which in turn increases customer dissatisfaction with the experience.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Help FOUND: Bayerischer Hof, Germany

This story is from my friend Sara from her trip to Germany. This is real "Raving Fan' service.


As a matter of fact I do have a Customer Service story. While in Munich earlier this month I stayed at the BAYERISCHER HOF. I slept in the first morning. When I finally got down to the lobby it was beyond the breakfast hours. I asked the Concierge where we might find a coffee at this time of day. He named a coffee house on the town square. As I looked blank he whipped out at map to show me where to go, Then he said "No. It is too complicated. My colleague will show you. Also, as they might be busy at this time, I'll call to get you a table." So he called and his colleague,Tina, took us to the door. I thought she would point us on our way. But NO. She began walking with us, down the street for two blocks, then across a sweet little park, turned right, across this new street and on a few buildings, in the door, into the elevator, up to the "first" floor and in the door. Tina took us the the hostess and introduced us as the hotel's American guests. When the hostess greeted us, Darling Tina wished us a good coffee and took off back to the hotel.

That is good German service. PS, We had our coffee and then delayed over it and a delicious pastry until it was lunch time. Lunch was superb.


Oh Sara! What a wonderful story and customer service experience. Finding people who truly care about the customer is so rare and priceless. What I love most about this story is that you would have been satisfied at any point during your interactions, even if the concierge giving you the coffee shop's name was the end of the story. The fact that both employees went so far to ensure your satisfaction in someone else's product reflects well on them as employees of the hotel and as good hearted people in their daily lives. Thank you so much for sharing Sara.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Help WANTED: Sears Store, Tool Department (California)

This customer service experience story is from my friend Dana. She is a web savvy and customer service oriented woman I met eons ago in Chicago who runs "Words To Sweat By" out of San Jose California. Find her funny motivational workout gear here.

This is the story in Dana's words:
What should have been a quick trip to Sears turned into a two-hour long debacle. We went into the tool section to buy (you guessed it) a tool chest for my DH. He knew what he wanted but also needed to fiddle for a couple of minutes to confirm.

After 20 minutes someone finally came to help him, but then once he had decided (10 minutes after that) it took another hour and half to complete a transaction. Because we had started working with one sales person, it appeared we couldn't be helped by another and the one who had helped us kept helping others and telling us "one more minute".

When he was finally ready to help us, he took the numbers that we wrote down, but didn't double check them and it turns out I had gotten one of the items wrong. Regardless, the set we wanted was OUT OF STOCK, oh, and discontinued as well. They should have had a sign up saying no longer available or only the floor model available at this store.

The sales person checked only 1 store in the area (because he had to call them, it wasn't available online) and they too were out.

We started to leave and I began to rant to another sales person because I was extremely frustrated so he started talking to us.

So with this new guy, we offered to buy the floor model, but they couldn't find the keys and the manager wasn't willing to figure out a way to sell us that one by giving us new key mechanisms.

Since the floor model wasn't an option, the new sales person finally decided to check different store in the area and lo and behold, they had a new set in stock that we could pick up.

So, we spent 2 hours on something that should have taken (tops) 30 minutes - most of which should have been my DH fiddling with each of the chests picking out the one he wanted.

Needless to say, we will not be giving our money to that specific Sears store again.

I think this is a great example of powerlessness in a person, let alone an employee.


Dana is right, this is a classic example of the powerless and demotivated employee. Powerlessness in an employee comes from one of two places; the employee or the employer. The employee may play helpless to avoid putting out an effort or to communicate their disdain for the work, company or customer. Many times an employer fails to fully utilize the intelligence and ability of their employees by exerting too much control. This also occurs when employers fail to hire and train their teams to make the best choices available. I believe that even when the problem begins with the employer, the employee is responsible for how they react to and translate the results.

With the current economic situation and the dismal job market many people take a job in order to just get by. They are not invested in their work and do not care about anything past punching in and then punching out again. I see this at every level from fast food counter all the way up to professionals in salaried positions. This demotivation stems from the individual's belief that the job they are currently in is below them. The job may be beneath their skill or experience level, it may be boring or embarrassing or humbling. HOWEVER--I will always expect someone in this position to be AWESOME in this job. I expect to see them excel in every way and then to be noticed by employers and customers alike for their said awesomeness. Each of us is fully responsible for how we react to the cards we are dealt...the winner keeps playing fair and smiling no matter how the game is going. When we make the best of the situation we are in, it opens up better opportunities for our future.