09 April 2010

a tale of customer service

My beef this week has been with customer service.  I've noticed over the past several years that decent customer service has gone the way of the dinosaur.  Too bad some of the customer service agents couldn't have accompanied them on that little sojourn, but anyway.

Customer service story #1.
I'm part of a group of women who try to get together once a year for a long weekend away.  It started out way back when our now college aged kiddos were tots, and we would get the kids together once a week for playgroup.  As an escape from being a MOM, the group decided a weekend away once a year was in order.  So for the past 15+ (OMG It's been that long?!) the moms have traveled to various places to be non-moms for a weekend.  We each take turns making hotel arrangements and coordinating who is or isn't going to make it this year.

Well, this year was my year to do all the legwork.  Being an owner of a Starwood condo timeshare, I'm in the "gold" class of their Starwood Preferred Guest club and was "awarded" a 50% discount at any Starwood property.  

(Now mind you, I have never had issues with the Starwood Company before this.  In fact I've been treated like royalty at their properties.  Club level, upgraded rooms at no charge, free happy hour, etc.)

So I'm thinking that a nice hotel on the beach might be in order.  The group decided on Clearwater Beach, FL and I called the super-secret-only-owners-get-to-know number and made a reservation for two rooms with a gulf view.

 would be a nice view, eh?

When I called to make the reservations, the two rooms were booked with two separate confirmation numbers.  This means while I'm on the phone with the agent, one of the reservations shows up in my e-mailbox.  I noticed it doesn't say "gulf view" but "bayline/harbour view."

 not quite the same view.

Uh-oh.  So, since I'm still on the phone with the agent I ask about this and am assured we have a gulf view room but that the reservations are all showing as bayline/harbour view.  I let her know we are a very particular crowd and if we don't get a gulf view I might end up on someone's  shitlist. Well, I didn't say "shitlist" but she got the message.  She assured me we had the gulf view rooms and made a notation  in the reservation that we required gulf view rooms.

Earlier this week I decide to call to make sure everything is in order.

Gulf view?  Ha!  In my friggin' dreams.

Nope we don't have gulf view rooms.  But for an additional $35/night they can rectify this little glitch.  Needless to say, Ruth is not a happy camper.  For those of you who know me well, I don't just let things slide.  Nope, I'm going to take it up the ladder.  The agent I'm speaking with is unable to help me so I request to speak with a supervisor.  I am told, and I quote, "You're wasting your time.  They're just going to tell you the same thing I just told you."   Excuse me?!  I asked to speak with a supervisor.  Your job is not to argue with the client but to do whatever it takes to keep them as a client.  After being "accidentally" disconnected I called back and decided to bypass the agent and go directly to supervisor mode.  The new agent thought it was her duty to argue with me that she "might" be able to help me.  I assured her this was not the case and there really was no point in me wasting her time or my time.

I was held hostage by this agent who wouldn't let me speak to a supervisor until she tried to help me.  So, after explaining the issue AGAIN, I was told there was nothing she could do.

Um, Miss I-Don't-Listen-Because-It's-Beyond-My-Capabilities, didn't I just explain that to you?  What is it about customer service people who won't actually LISTEN to what you have to say?

So, onto a supervisor I go, so that I can explain the situation yet one more time.  I'm told there's nothing he can do but bump it up to the "corporate" level.  Someone will get back to me in 24 to 48 hours.

Right.  Sure they will.

72 hours later *I* call *them* back.  Guess whose issue wasn't bumped up to "corporate?"

Yesterday  I get an e-mail from "corporate" basically telling me they have no recording of the initial conversation but they would be happy to put us in a gulf view room.  At additional cost.  Really?! Oh please let me pay more for a room I already booked at a lower rate!  Please, please let me!  Let me!

Yes, I am a very sarcastic person.  But not while talking to customer service people.  Having worked in customer service industries, I know for a fact it doesn't help.  I'm very calm, professional, and tactful.

After numerous e-mail messages back and forth with "corporate" it was resolved that nothing was resolved other than I will never book another Starwood property again.  My last exchange with "corporate" came back with an auto reply that she was sorry but she would not be in the office until 12 April and if the issue was urgent to write to customer support.  You're kidding me, right?


I forward all of the e-mail messages "corporate" and I have exchanged to customer support and receive a message back.

"Thank you for your email to Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.
This message is to acknowledge we have received your email.
We are currently experiencing higher than normal e-mail traffic, which may result in a delay in responding to your message.
We are working very diligently to respond to your e-mail in a timely manner.
We would like to extend our sincerest apology for any inconvenience this may cause, as well as our appreciation and thanks for your patience at this time.
Best Regards,
Customer Service Department
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide"

Yes, they spelled e-mail two ways.  And my issue is still unresolved.  But I write letters.  To owners and presidents.  It's amazing the response you get then.  I'll keep you posted.

Customer service story #2.

Last year I bought a nice Weber grill.

This year the starter mechanism went out.  You know, the little doohickey you press and magically the burners light?  I have the receipt somewhere in my house papers but don't think it's still a warranty issue so don't bother looking for it.

I call Weber customer service.  The woman on the other end listens to the issue and asks if I had registered my product.  I tell her I'm not sure.  Sometimes I send those little cards in and sometimes I don't.  I do; however, have the serial number for my grill so she looks it up that way.  Nope, I didn't register the grill so she has no way of knowing if it's under warranty or not.  OK, this is my fault and I'm fully expecting to just order a new part, pay for it, and wait for it to show up.


The customer service agent (Starwood are you listening...? emphasis on SERVICE) says, "No problem Ms. Covington; we'd be happy to send you a replacement starter kit at no charge."

*blink*  *blink*

After picking my jaw up off the floor, I thank the customer SERVICE agent profusely.

Three days later the part shows up.


Customer service story #3.

A couple of weeks ago I ordered some nifty upside down growing bag thingies and various accouterments.

 Check 'em out; they're really neat!

The box shows up and I open it and take inventory to make sure everything is there, and alas there are three extra bags and three extra chains missing.

I immediately call the customer service line and explain the situation.  The woman I'm speaking with apologizes to me and says she will get the missing items sent out ASAP.

Guess what?  Three days later they show up just as promised.

Go Gardner's Supply Company!!

So, there is such a thing as decent customer service out there.  For that I'm grateful.  There is hope for us yet.

PS Juan at Buca di Beppo in Broomfield is a mediocre server at best.  Note to Juan:
1. You do NOT slap food or drink on the table as you are walking past.  Take the time to SET the food or drink down and make sure your guests don't need anything else before you go on your merry way.
2.  If the guest says the wine smells like bleach you might want to check the glasses (or have the barkeep check) to make sure there isn't an issue with the glassware.  You wasted two perfectly good glasses of wine on what could have been a very simple fix.  Never mind the rolling eyes and attitude.  The guest should NOT have to go to the bar to get the problem resolved.  That's YOUR job.
3.  Don't think I'm going to tip you 15% or 20% because that is the "norm."  I tip based on service.  You don't offer up exemplary service, you don't get an exemplary tip.  I gave you 10% only because that is what you deserved and frankly I think I was being generous.