Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Service Industry

If I owned a Multi-million dollar business I would initiate a business motto that states, “the customer is always right.” That should make for very few problems at the customer service counter. How could an employee get confused about the procedure? The customer walks up to the cash, tells you what kind of issue their having, the customer service representative looks at their handbook, “the customer is ALWAYS right”, and together the employee and the customer work to solve the problem. Both parties are happy. The customer gets exactly what they wanted and in the process my company has hopefully provided the type of service that breeds a loyal customer base.

Nothing kills a relationship between a company and their customers quicker than a dreadful shopping exchange. I use the word “exchange” because essentially that is exactly what is happening. I am interested in a product or service the company provides and in exchange I am willing to use the money I have earned in previous business exchanges to purchase said product or service.

So, what would my rant be without a story to support it? Two years ago I purchased a TV from a company that will remain nameless (just know they are a rather large company known for their electronics). I was looking for a bargain and I was able to find a no name 37-inch flat-screen TV that was in my price range. Just as I was about to pay for my new TV the Sales Rep. asked if I would be interested in buying long-term insurance. It was something I hadn’t thought about until he asked me and I began to wonder if it was worth it. For $159.99 I would be covered for four years and if anything were to happen to my TV I could bring it back to the store and exchange it for a working product. The deal was too good to be true and while the added fee was a little steep I decided to shell out the extra cash for some added security.

So, here we are in the present day and the TV works fine, but the converter is a different story altogether. One day I woke up and my converter would not turn on my TV. No problem! I would go to the store, buy some new batteries, and my converter would work again – problem solved. Unfortunately, this was not the case. I tried several sets of batteries and the convertor still wouldn’t turn on the TV. I opened the battery pack and noticed a small amount of rust on the coils that connect to my batteries and figured that must be the reason behind the malfunction. No problem round 2! I would take my handy dandy long-term insurance plan and get a new converter.

I decided to call the store ahead of time and ask what the process would be for exchanging product, but after several phone calls I was unable to coax anyone into picking up the phone. To avoid any problems I decided to bring in the TV, all the cords, and the converter incase they were required to make the exchange. I walked in through the front door and headed towards the TV section where I met a young man and told him about my problem. I was told to wait a moment while he walked away to find, what I presumed to be, the answer. After a couple of minutes he returned and informed me to contact the customer service phone-line and they would put me in touch with the people who would conduct a repair for me. A repair? Something was awry. I decided to try one more time and after about fifteen minutes of walking around their store I was finally able to speak with someone. I told them about my insurance and how the TV works fine, but the remote looks like it has some rust on the coils – PLEASE HOLD!

I don’t think there is anything worse then waiting on hold. After another five minutes the lady on the line came back on the line and informed me that the problem with my converter has nothing to do with the company because it is “cosmetic” and will not be covered by my insurance – I’m starting to get angry. So, maybe, I started to raise my voice a little with the poor girl on the phone – it’s really not her fault. But, what’s the point of buying a no hassle insurance plan if the defective exchange is a hassle? I hung up the phone and decided to go head hunting for managers. I must have looked like a snarling beast by the time I finally found someone, “where can I find a manager!?”

The manager asked what the problem was and I went through my whole story. Finally, I was told to stand in the customer service line and he would help me out – it was about time! When I got to the counter I told the young lady about my story and that her manager was willing to help me out. By this point my frustration was at "optimum capacity" I was ready to return anything I had ever purchased at this store and cut any ties I ever shared with them.

Then something amazing happened. A young man came out with two converters in his hands and asked me to pick the one I liked more. Could this be for real? I asked the glowing figure in front of me if either remote would work on my TV and he assured me they should - I was ecstatic. After roughly two hours of frustration my sanity was restored.

Reflecting on my experience I realized the whole exchange could have gone quite differently. But, for one reason or another it didn’t and it ended up turning into what I like to call “I get angry before anything gets solved business transaction model.” Why do I have to get completely frustrated and on the brink of taking out everyone in the store before my problems are solved? If you think about it, chances are a lot of people who experience problems, warranties or not, will probably never bother to make a return. Each time they do this the company profits from their problems – Profiting From Problem (PFP) is shameless business model.

The real money is in cooperation. Happy customers are even happier to give you their money again and again. I don’t want to have to jump through hoops and leap over hurdles to get what I am looking for. I want to spend my money in a world where the company knows my happiness leads to long-term loyalty.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I have some TV to watch.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hello? Operator?

When a phone rings something inside my head tells me to pick it up. I can’t quite explain it, but when a phone rings (regardless of what caller ID says) I want to grab at the receiver and say hello. When people call me – I want to talk to them. I actually get really excited when my phone rings and it’s a number I have never seen before. I often think, “Who could be calling me?”

It’s always the same story; I am sitting at home doing something important and right at the most critical point the phone rings. My house has been signed up for the do not call list, so of course, I pick up the phone and so it begins…

“Is this Mr. Raposo?”
“Yes it is.”
“Hi Mr. Raposo this is blah blah blah from blah blah and I am calling today to offer you the chance of a lifetime. You see if you give us your money we’ll take said money and spend it on ridiculous things – like my salary.”

**Phone Beeps**

“Can you hold please? Hello?”
“Hi, is this Mr. Raposo?”
“Yes it is.”
“Hi Mr. Raposo this is glub glub glub calling from glub glub. I am calling today to offer you the chance of a lifetime. You see if you give us your money we’ll take said money and spend it on ridiculous things – like my salary.”
“I don’t mean to be rude” I say, “but I have blah blah from blah blah blah on the other line – can you hold?”

Needless to say I think people have tried putting blah blah and glub glub on hold before because when I went back and forth between the two lines both of them had hung up (but, what about my opportunity of a lifetime!?)

I find myself longing for the same excitement that came with answering the phone that I experienced when I was a young boy. Like the time I tried calling 555-5555 to get in touch with all those people I saw in the movies. Or as excited as one of my students who lights up when she sees the area code (604) because she knows it is from her hometown of Vancouver. Even that time the girl gave me the “you’ve been given a fake number” number was more exciting then current phone calls from these 17 digit numbers.

When a phone rings – I want to be able to pick it up. The more foreign the area code the better. But, I want to trust who calls me. I want the excitement of conversation and the exchanging of words from one mind to another. Who wants to live in a world where they don’t even bother to pick up their phone because they know it’s not worth their time?

Mind you the more I think about it – I may actually be interested in spending some money to receive the opportunity of a lifetime. Anyone have glub glub’s number?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Say It to Their Face

A while ago I was driving home with a friend when they said, “someone was talking about you today.” I instantly thought to myself, “Here we go again…” When a friend comes to you saying someone has been talking about you most people instantly assume that they are about to hear some sort of nasty story or rumor. To my surprise this wasn’t the case at all - my friend actually told me something nice that someone else had said about me. After we were done talking – I felt really good. So good in fact that I developed a new theory I like to call “Say it to their face.”

Whether we like to hear it or not negative things people say about us seem to make their way to our ears. We’ve heard it all before with comments ranging from our looks to our demeanor or attitude.

The amazing thing about this is that most of us have been on both sides of the fence. In many situations we may not be saying it directly to the persons face we may find ourselves commenting to a friend, “Who would wear that?” or “Can you believe they would do such a thing?”

On the surface it appears harmless, but what if the person found out? Would they be happy to know that you thought what they were wearing was ridiculous or that you think the way they act isn’t up to your standard?

We all know that sooner or later all the “bad” information seems to make its way back to the person it’s about. When you hear it – how does it make you feel? I can tell you from personal experience that it doesn’t feel good. You start feeling angry followed by a wealth of frustration and ending with a lowered sense of self-worth (to think it all began with someone saying something harmless to someone else).

The keyword here being “harmless” because when we make the comments we don’t think they are going to actually be heard by the person – we don’t want to intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings, but each time we say something harmful it could possibly happen.

What if we could take our “harmless” words and use them to do some good. As it currently stands, we often hear about the negative things people say about us, but how often do people share the good things with us? Sure, we do hear good things every once and while, but I would bet good money that the bad things we hear out numbers the good in 9 out of every 10 situations.

So, what’s stopping us? If our words are truly “harmless” wouldn’t it also be easy to say nice things to people? But, we often hold back. We’ll think it, but we won’t say it. Why is that? We know how good it feels to hear really nice things about us and we know it doesn’t take much to share our “harmless” words – so what’s holding us back?

As the band Sloan would say, “If it feels good, do it.” From this point forward I’m saying it to their face.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Turning Have to into Want

One my favourite parts about going to an Asian restaurant, besides eating all the food, is the fortune cookie at the end of my meal. While most fortune cookies usually say something along the lines of “You will find riches in the most unlikely of places” or “You will be recharged with a new found zest for life” there was one day when I looked upon the piece of paper in my cookie and found an interesting fortune that read, “We do what we have to do, to do what we want to do.” Is this even really a fortune? I felt rather gypped.

The more I reflected upon the cookie – the more I realized that the message it carried could be more valuable than any fortune I have ever read.

Imagine the fortune from the perspective of a child. It’s a lesson we all must learn – the lesson of want vs. need. When we are young we see things that look foreign and amazing and we want them. It doesn’t matter what it really is or that we will only use it for a few days we want it so bad we start to cry and make a scene right there in the store. We’ve all witnessed this before – we look at the child and talk about their bad manners, comment on how spoiled they must be, and at the end of the day we can’t help but think about how disrespectful their actions are. All these descriptions draw up negative feelings in our imagination as we envision this child wanting so badly.

But, what if we could transform our childhood want for the material into an adult want for the things we have to do? Like the fortune cookie says, “we do what we have to do, to do what we want to do.”

I know what your thinking, “How am I supposed to know what I really want in life?”

And here is the kicker – you are already doing the things you have to do – it’s only a matter of flipping them into what you want to do. What I am trying to say is - what if we were to develop goals around the things we have to do in life in order to turn them into the things we want in life? Your not sure about your ultimate wants in life? Who is!? But, why not be the best at whatever have to dos you currently have to do.

This word “have” sounds so labourious. We would all rather do what we want over what we have to any day. But, if we can turn our have tos into wants then we can beat the system.

Before you know it you’ll be writing your own fortunes. I can see it now, “We do what we want to do, to do what we want to do.”