When Business Is Down?You Do Not Cut Customer Service


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Today’s business environment stinks for lots of companies. And these companies have to cope. How? Hey, it’s obvious, isn’t it? You cut people. Especially the people serving customers because now you have fewer customers, right? Or at least the same number of customers are spending less. So it’s very logical. Until you think through the implications, but that’s a problem because most distressed companies are that way because they didn’t think enough soon enough.

I can only speak for myself, but I’m seeing these implications of cutting customer-facing staff almost every day and everywhere. My wife and I had dinner several weeks ago at an upscale Chinese restaurant that we frequent. After not being able to get something as basic as tea to the table, the wait staff couldn’t give us our bill. I almost had to tackle someone to take my credit card. And that person said, “Sorry, there’s nothing we can do about it, we don’t have enough people.” In a tone that implied it was the customers’ fault.

So last week my wife suggested going there again. Until I reminded her about the poor service. Nix. A couple of “regulars” lost, at least for now. And I’ve experienced this same service deterioration at the supermarket, the bank, several more local merchants, all of which I’ll sour on quickly if the service degrade continues. Plus, I’m sad to say, two national companies I’ve frequently commended for service excellence seemed to have joined the “cut service people” parade.

One is Verizon Wireless. I posted earliery this week about a nasty service breakdown bordering on betrayal. Very out of character for the Verizon Wireless of the past. The other, keeping with a telecomm theme, is Qwest, an outfit that yo-yoed from customer service so terrible the State of Minnesota threatened them with loss of their wireline phone service franchise to building a top-rate, across-the-board service culture.

Yesterday (Friday) we lost our home telephone line, which includes my wife’s DSL service she depends on for her business. But things do break. What matters is how sellers remedy the situation. Qwest told us they couldn’t get anyone out until today (Saturday)?and we got a very “precise” 8:30 to 12:30 time slot. As it happens, I’m leaving tomorrow for a week-long onsite client visit, and I had mucho running around to do?during business hours?before leaving. But my wife was away all day. So I drew Qwest duty.

Well I waited and waited. But when 12:30 came around, no tech. And no call from Qwest, either, So I called Qwest and reached what’s obviously their overflow call center. Oh, sorry, they said, it’s going to be 1:25. Now that’s precise. But when 1:25 struck, no tech. And no call, either. So I called Qwest again. Same overflow place. Oh, sorry, it’s going to be 2:30. Except when the cuckoo clock announced 2:30, no tech. Since I’m now running out of time to get even essential stuff done, I call Qwest again. This time I reach the real Qwest contact center. Gent says he’ll call the tech (as if they only have one). Gent comes back on and says he’s on his way. Now, I wrote everything you’ve read so far while waiting for this tech to arrive following that promise. Tech must have had a late lunch. Or a stop at a saloon. I began thinking I was waiting for Godot.

Finally, I get a call from this very breezy, sounding guy proudly announcing he’s on his way. When I explained to him what an inconvenience his late arrival created, he snapped back, “They can’t give my five work orders in the morning and expect me to do ’em all.” Sorry, my fault for expecting him to do all those work orders and be on time. Then, I couldn’t resist. I suggested that Qwest consider using a very valuable new device to prevent such situations. The telephone. I could have had all my running done before he arrived, but… Qwest must be having difficult time training employees to use such new and cutting edge technologies.

I’m just finishing off this here post when the doorbell rings. It’s Mr. Breezy. Can’t fix it because the trouble is underground, which requires a different tech. He’ll report it, but it’s probably too late for them to make it today. But he did apologize saying, “Yeah, I should have called you.” So I, in turn, related back to him my new perception of Quest, frequently using a five-letter obscenity. Yup, I sprinkled my petit-rant with frequent mentions of “phone.”

The underground tech arrived and fixed the problem before I returned from frantically running errands.

Now, between Verizon and Qwest, I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. But that doesn’t mean I won’t run off at the mouth about their turnaway from customers. Hey, words hurt. Often far more than an individual customer defection. Just ask Sprint. Glory be to the blogosphere.


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