The Ghost Of Customer Service Past

A Lesson.

Almost two weeks ago, on December 15th, David Kanigan posted  a story  entitled Three Generations Before You Are A Local. It was about a book he was reading and the snippets seduced me.  I decided I was going to buy and immediately read that book, (as opposed to buying it  to put it on the shelf for a while before I actually got around to it).

james-rebanks-lambLater that morning, shortly after they opened, I called my local, big box book store, because that is all that’s left in our small city.  The young man  who answered the phone said something like, “Hi, this is Bob (not his real name)  and thank you for calling Aiken’s really big book store and it is my goal to give you outstanding customer service.”

Fair enough. I thought.  That’s why I’m calling, because I need customer service  to buy a book I’m anxious to read and  while I can pay Amazon a few extra dollars to get it tomorrow,  I want to see if you have it in stock so I can come and get it today.  I am on a mission.

At the sake of not wanting to drag this out longer than I have to, here are a few bullet points, broken down by touch points:    IMG_0892

  • He  put the phone on the counter while he looked it up and also had a conversation with another customer. The result, not in stock, but we can order it and it will be in the store no later than the 23rd. Not my plan, but I acquiesced. Even though I have been a member for years and thought I was still current, he could not find me, but found my wife. We ordered under her name, but I asked that they call me, not her when it came in.  Easy enough, right?
  • Wednesday the 23rd arrives and late in the afternoon, I realize I hadn’t heard from them yet. I call and get the same “Outstanding customer service” greeting. I ask about my order and am told that it didn’t exist. I explained how I ordered it and again, the staffer, put the phone down on the counter and I overheard him  asking colleague what to tell me as the next shipment wasn’t due until January 3rd?  A female got on the phone and asked me all the same questions again and  we finally determined that I ordered the book under my wife’s name but it had not arrived. However, a shipment was  just delivered and that I should call back later in the evening to see if it was in that batch.   (See, it was my fault and I should call them back?)
  • That evening, I did call back and once again was greeted with the “outstanding customer service” line.  I explained that it was suggested that I call back this evening and explained a few highlights of my shopping experience. Again, he put the phone on the counter (I guess their phones don’t have “hold” buttons),  and I got to listen while he asked another associate and also helped a lady who was trying to return a book she didn’t like. Eventually, I was advised that the book had not arrived, although the computer indicated that the order was completed, (meaning I already had it).   He basically gave me the “I just work here and the computer  shows the order is complete” response. I was geting a bit tense and the kid was stuttering through what he thought he should say and I mentioned that their “outstanding customer service” wasn’t all that outstanding and what can he do for me to get the book that was promised to arrive today?  He asked someone else who mentioned that there might be another shipment that will arrive on Christmas Eve, but if not, it would be January 3rd. Resigned to the outcome and already forming the words of this blog post, I politely ended the call, being told that they would call me when it came in.  I repeated the number (mine) I wanted them to call and I was assured that they would do so.
  • Around 1pm on Christmas Eve, while I was still at work, my wife texted me and advised that the really big book store had called and left a msg on her phone that the book “she” ordered had arrived and could be picked up. She was wondering if that was the book I had been mumbling about the last few days?
  • I go to the really big bookstore and ask for the book, the clerk, behind the counter took it off the shelf and handed it to me, directing  me to the long check-out line, even though he was standing in front of a cash register.   I stand in line,  pay for it and go home.
  • One of my Christmas presents was a gift certificate to the really big bookstore and I decided to go there today and get a few books as I also received  coupons via e-mail that expired soon, (beceause I’m a member?). I picked out the books and the clerk asked for my telephone number, I told him that my membership had expired and he looked it up  and amazingly, there I was. . . a member, entitled to all the benfits afforded therein.  I took my discount.

The point is that it is not enough to teach the staff to memorize your “outsanding customer service” pledge. Isn’t their job to solve the customer’s problems and mitigate any chaos when it comes to buying books,  just like it is my job to solve people’s problems and create a smooth path forward when a death impacts their world?

Was this book buying experience the bigest challenge I faced this past week?  Not even close. While I was disapointed by what passes for “outstanding customer service”,  I did eventually get “my wife’s” book and it is as good as I hoped.

There, I feel better now.



About Ray V.

Living in Aiken, South Carolina, USA, I like to share what I am looking at, thinking about or listening to. I refer to this as the view out my window. Thanks for stopping by.
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6 Responses to The Ghost Of Customer Service Past

  1. Deb says:

    You are a very patient man!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. Unreal. Yet, I can recount similar experiences across a host of retailers in my town and nearby city. I do wonder if the onliners lower cost infrastructure and therefore lower cost product offers drive all local retailers to have no choice but to cut costs in training, systems, inventory, and staff quality. A vicious cycle.

    After all that, I do hope you enjoy the book. What a journey.


  3. Mary Jackson says:

    Books are one of the few things I generally don’t get locally. So many employees in these really big book stores don’t know much about books. I’ve had to repeatedly spell names of authors that I think the clerk ought to know. I’ve had clerks find a book in the computer, walk me to its spot, and not find it. I’ve had clerks tell me a book isn’t there, then after browsing I’d find it. Once I wanted a specific popular children’s book (getting it for my father to give a grandchild for a birthday) and went to 3 different big book stores on my way to the event, and none had it.

    I will ‘make due’ with what’s available at the local department stores, hardware stores, gift shops, etc, mostly because I do think supporting local businesses (especially locally owned ones) are good for communities. And I don’t even like to call it ‘make due’ because usually I can find what I want and have an excellent shopping experience.
    I have generally been very happy with the help and service I receive at local stores. It’s worth it to me to pay what might be a few extra dollars to support the local businesses.
    Books though ….. I have not been able to get books I wanted without great difficulty since The Happy Bookseller in Columbia closed. And I have been amazed at the efficiency of Amazon.
    But I do miss The Happy Bookseller!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Little Voice says:

    Oh yes, the promises of Great Customer Services! Lost and forgotten.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Who We Are | A Simple, Village Undertaker

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