For Once, the Customer's Wrong --CagleJanuary 2009
WELCOME TO 2009! I hope your year has gotten off to a tremendous start. Time to shake off the 2008 blues and get going on a positive note.
But first, a negative note from the twisted vault that is my life’s experiences. I offer, for your consideration, the latest, greatest injustice on a customer service level.
Periodically, I’ve shared some stories that have ranged from the zany to infuriating. Until this most recent one, none threatened to land yours truly in the pokey. First, a little background.
Time: Around 3:30 Sunday afternoon, late November. Place: Big box retail store (just for fun, we’ll call it Target). Setting: A crowded photo department. Objective: Secure holiday photos to insert into greeting cards of same nature.
My wife had slated an appointment at the aforementioned time. Not surprisingly, the photo department had booked as many people as possible into their schedule. In fact, the customers were shoe-horned into time slots at a rate of every 10 minutes, which puts an unrealistic burden on the photographer.
Near our scheduled time, we learn that the 3 p.m. appointment is still waiting to be photographed. That means the 3:10 p.m. and 3:20 p.m. are also on deck in front of us.
A woman in her late 40s, escorted by a toddler, makes trouble at the front desk, demanding to have her grandson photographed. She did not have an appointment when she initially visited the photo studio an hour earlier, but had been told by a CSR to try back in about 45 minutes, when they might have an opening. Naturally, the woman regarded this suggestion as a guarantee of a vacancy upon her return.
The CSR holds firm. “I’m sorry, but we’re booked with appointments, and we’re behind schedule as it is. I just can’t fit you in,” she relays, as sweetly as possible.
The customer is furious, repeating how if she had known a vacant time slot wouldn’t be available after waiting 45 minutes, she would have gone to another place that had a 4:30 p.m. opening. The woman concludes her rant by demanding that the CSR contact her manager, who’s at home.
Around this time, my wife had informed me that our own toddler was suffering from a runny nose, and his face was turning red as a result. I needed to find some tissues, so off I proceed to the travel-size sundries aisle. While I’m gone, the manager tells her CSR to allow the woman to cut in line and go next.
This does not play well with the appointed customers biding their time. My wife says that several people complain about the arrangement, and are told they will receive a free photo sheet for their trouble. I return to find the squeaky wheel and her grandson heading into the studio. My son’s face gets redder by the minute, and I choose to join him.
“Are you letting that woman cut in front of us?” I whisper through clenched teeth to the CSR, using an adjective not suited for family magazines.
“My manager told me to,” the woman barks back, discreetly.
The CSR’s hands are tied. At this point, the path is clear. I need to take my grievance to the next level. About 10 to 15 minutes tick off until the woman emerges with her grandson. I lift up my toddler son and walk over to the woman.
“Do you see his face? He’s got a cold, and it’s getting worse by the minute,” I rattle off, to her surprise, with the exaggerated melodrama of a Lifetime Channel exclusive movie. “The next time you want to get a picture, make an appointment like the rest of us, and don’t try to pull that stunt again and cut in front of other people.”
The woman mutters something to the effect of “I would’ve left if they told me they couldn’t fit us in,” and we continue dueling. The exchange, which couldn’t have lasted more than 30 seconds, concludes with me suggesting the next stop on her itinerary. That prompts another CSR to warn, “Do you want me to call security?” He was referring to yours truly.
In the words of Seymour Skinner, I had been taken down a whole peg.
Defeated, I take my son by the hand and walk away. Such a heroic stand goes unappreciated by the employees (as well as my wife, might I note). I rationalize myself as the Rosa Parks of customer service, taking a principled stand. Selfish nitwits constantly demand that their needs be met immediately to their satisfaction, without care for other people’s inconveniences or schedules. Something needed to be said.
For you print buyers out there, take heed. A lack of preparedness on your part does not constitute an emergency on our part. That sign hangs in a lot of manufacturing environments. We wouldn’t dare let you, the print customer, see that sign out of fear that it conveys the wrong message.
Yes, we want your last-minute business. Yes, we will bend over backwards, if we can to provide the capacity and turn the job around in short order.
But, there are limitations. Work with us and don’t be belligerent about going to another printer. We’re your partner...probably a good friend, as well. Let us figure out a way to address your emergency.
Leave the meltdowns to those idiots in the photo studio.
Here’s hoping your 2009 is filled with good fortune, great clients and even greater sales. PI