Monday, June 21, 2010

Customer Service

Lousy customer service has been the ruin of many a company over the history of companies, I am assuming. People complain about bad customer service left and right, but how often do we sing the praises of companies with good customer service? All too infrequently, I am guessing. I've recently been fortunate enough to encounter some really good examples of companies that care enough to hire great employees that then offer great customer service, and I'm naming names.

First of all, that cruise I took recently with Carnival. There were things I didn't like about it, but I have to say the customer service (with the exception of one photographer, who was, to be fair, only enforcing company policy) was exemplary. Our cabin porter was helpful, and had an air of warmth, competence, and caring about him. He was friendly and helpful but not intrusive. They also had some really nice people working at their guest services desk, and the towel girl who searched out and brought me a bottle opener when I was hanging out in her area went above and beyond. (I had a comfy deck chair looking out over the passing ocean, my plate full of chocolate covered strawberries, my bottle of chilled Pelligrino, and my Kindle and I was all set to R-E-L-A-X, but I couldn't get the *%&^$^%$ bottle open! She saved the day.)

Two additional encounters with good customer service occurred recently. I was an idiot and didn't pay my homeowner's insurance (the bill got buried under a pile of other paperwork and I forgot about it, like a total ditz), which I realized on a Saturday as we were heading out the door for a trip to visit relatives. I got on the phone first thing on Monday with my AAA agent and he arranged for a new policy for me over the phone. I needed some information from my bank to pay for it all, but of course all my checks and paperwork were back at home (who carries a check book anymore?), so I high tailed it over to the nearest Wachovia branch and they could not have been nicer. I got the info I needed quickly and cheerfully.

On a side note, I was nervous about my bank when Wells Fargo bought them out a while ago, during all the financial crisis kerfluffle, but as far as I know Wachovia and Wells Fargo weren't involved in all that shady mortgage crisis business at all. I could be wrong, but I don't believe they needed a bailout; I think they are pretty sound. (Correct me if you've heard differently, please.) The Huffington Post recommended pulling money out of the big banks that were involved in the crisis in favor of banking with small local institutions, but since I don't think Wachovia/Wells Fargo had a hand in it I've stuck with them. I am happy I did given my personal insurance crisis! I would have been in an even bigger bind had I not been able to walk into a branch near where we were staying to get the information I needed.

Which brings me back to customer service. It's such an asset to any company when their employees treat their customers right. You only get that if the company treats their employees right, I firmly believe. It's that "corporate culture" thing. If management treats employees like dirt, then the employees will treat the customers they encounter like dirt. What incentive do they have to do better? So I am really impressed with the companies I've interacted with recently for hiring great folks, and for those great folks for treating me so nicely. It's so reassuring to have a positive encounter, even when you are dealing with a problem, and feel like you've worked with someone to come to a satisfactory solution.

So many thanks to Song at AAA, who wrote up my insurance policy and was so sweet about it even though I was pressuring him to hurry up due to the circumstances (on a trip with people waiting for me to get done so we could continue with the family's agenda), to the lovely young woman at Wachovia who got me the information I needed to pay for said insurance, to the porter, the towel girl, and the guest service people on the Carnival Imagination, and to all the unsung heroes of customer service out there in the world. I appreciate it when we can make a connection, however brief, and both walk away saying "gee, what a nice person".

Disclaimer: The above mentioned companies have not compensated me in any way for my statements. I've done business with them the same way anyone else would. I don't own their stock or anything else of that nature.

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