Monday, November 10, 2014

Customer Service and Kindness

I had an interesting experience on Sunday afternoon. I believe it fits in well with the K for Kindness message I'm trying to send.

My son is eligible for an upgrade on his cell phone. We happened to be in Silverdale, so we decided to stop in the cell phone provider in person to take care of this purchase. We walked into the store, one we've been in many times, and they have again changed how customers check in and are served. A friendly employee greeted us, asked for my cell phone number, and the reason for our visit. We were then told to feel free to browse.

All the items were tucked away in alcoves around the store, and other customers were busy playing with them or being sold on all the features. Very few seats were available, nor was there any place to stand that wasn't in the way. After about 15 minutes, I started to look around the store. The colors were bright, over-stimulating, and the energy of the employees matched. I listened to one customer trying to get options regarding her family's monthly plan, while the salesperson tried to persuade her to give up the "unlimited data" option because "you aren't really using it anyway". I heard another salesperson try to up-sell a phone. "We're completely out of stock of the iPhone 6, but we have the iPhone 6+ ready to deliver today".

For me, I waited quietly. I have been recovering from a bad cold/flu bug, and Sunday was the first day in a long time I wasn't scheduled to be somewhere. Let me paint the picture. I was wearing my glasses, no make-up, hair pushed back with a headband, and I was dressed for a day off. I'm certain I was not exuding the epitome of "professional", despite the fact that I am, indeed, a professional woman.

When the over-stimulated sales agent finally got to our name, he came right over, asked what we were there for, and then announced, "I can't really help you because you have a little bit of a past-due balance on your account." He then proceeded to lecture me about the fact that sometimes credit cards expire and I could just go online and take care of it. Oh, and did I want to go ahead and order that iPhone 6 (or better yet, walk out the door with a 6+) from him?


I am quite confident that if I had been dressed in my suit and heels, hair styled perfectly, with the right touch of make up, he would not have talked to me in such a way. I am certain other customers heard our exchange -- after all, I was listening to other customers' conversations while I waited -- and since when it is appropriate for a sales person, on the floor of the store, to talk at length with a customer about "a bit of a past-due balance".

Especially after I told him I did not want to discuss that with him, and that I would take care of it right away.

I am proud of myself. I was not unkind, though I was very annoyed. I now have cell phone, home phone, and internet service with this company. They receive a good chunk of my money each month, and on the few times a year I actually go to see them in person, I expect to be treated well.

Quite disappointing.

But what is the real lesson here? In reality, I could easily change cell phone companies, but is one any different from another? We are such a society of incentives, that we seem to have forgotten about civility. What happened to treating people with polite kindness simply because it's the right thing to do? The problem is that one bad experience starts a ripple effect, and as much as I hate to admit it, it created a damper of my attitude for the rest of the day.

It makes me truly appreciate the people who know how to slow down, smile, and be excellent to each other, even if the customer's wishes can't be met right in that moment.

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