Tag Archives: Customer Service

How To Say “I’m Sorry” The Right Way

I got an email today from Go Daddy. If you’re familiar with them this week, it is probably because a human error, somewhere in the system, caused many, many websites to break. By “break,” I mean: “stopped delivering your customers to your website.” Things like this happen every day, just usually not on this large of a scale.

I’m sure their customer service representatives heard more than an earful from their customers. I know their customer service representatives could do nothing in the interim regarding the outage.

I’m still a Go Daddy customer for two reasons: First – It’s really hard and expensive to move an Italian domain: (Schnik.it) many of your great hosting companies do not deal with international registry. Two – I’m not uber-technical, I really just need somewhere to register those domains that I use and Go Daddy fits that bill.

I got this email (pictured below) this morning. It’s Go Daddy’s official apology for their whoopsiedoodle the other day. There are a couple of notable things I caught in the email.

First, in no uncertain terms, they apologize and again in the first and second paragraphs. Three apologies in the first three written items. That’s apologizing done right.

Second, they explained the problem, issue, or defect, in layman’s terms. They didn’t say “The Flux Capacitor experienced a ground-shift failure and we let the horses out of the playground to wiggle the chain and rattled some widget plugins.” They said: “The service outage was due to a series of internal network events that corrupted router data tables.”

As a customer, I don’t really want to know why, generally. I want to know what’s being done to fix it. That’s covered in the same paragraph.

It’s the very last line that caught my attention the most:

It’s an honor to serve you. As always, please call us 24/7 at 480-505-8877 — anytime, for any reason.

How many people in customer service ever say, “It’s an honor to serve you. And, call us anytime, for any reason.” How does that make you feel? I think companies spend far too much time trying to get their customers to stop calling them. I’m pleased when someone encourages it.

I said this before, I’m a Go Daddy customer out of convenience, but their customer service in this experience really goes directly to the right tone, the smart response and it makes me quite pleased as a customer service representative. So many companies I’ve worked for in the past really liked saying “We’re sorry, but…” instead of “I’m Sorry.” We often see apologies from big companies done really wrong, it’s nice to see one done right.

Sorry Seems Like the Hardest Word.


Should “Influence” Impact Service?

I was involved in a conversation the other day about Customer Service from a brand perspective. I listened intently as this person talked about how they check things like: Klout scores, blog followers, and their perspective on how many people an individual reaches. Then, these “influencers” receive a heightened level of customer care because of their perceived impact on the brand’s reputation.

Neon Telephone

“Interesting,” I thought. I bemused, “Shouldn’t all customers receive the same level of care?” “Shouldn’t every call be the most important of your day?” As someone who lives in the customer service world, I was really surprised that companies still have the impact perspective.

Service has never been easier to provide. You can call (my preferred method,) you can write (email or snail mail,) or your can tweet/blog. Some companies even let you file a report via Facebook. And, your reputation, when tarnished by a poor customer service experience has the opportunity to go viral at any moment, regardless of how much reach the customer has, it is all about who is listening.

It shouldn’t matter to a company how many followers there are or how many blog comments I receive. I’m far more likely to impact your business in the extra 20 minutes I have to wait, than one “influencer” who tweets that they’re angry.

Do you provide customer service based on your perception of the potential impact to your brand or do you treat all customers the same?

Guest Post: Service Standards – An Owner’s Perspective

–Schnik’s Note– I have the pleasure of knowing this business owner and I consider them great friends. Gaining the perspective on Customer Service from the owner’s point of view is something I’ve considered doing but needed the right storyteller. Here’s their story. If you’re ever in Camas, Washington, and soon to be Vancouver, Washington – Check out Twilight Pizza, they really do make you feel at home. (I suggest the T-Rex Pizza!) All added photos and emphasis are mine.

What do we sell at a restaurant? Food is the obvious answer, although I really believe that what we sell is temporary relief from the stresses of reality. In some ways, a restaurant is much like a movie. The goal of a movie is to offer temporary escape from reality. If the movie fails to suspend our disbelief, breaks the veil of unreality, well, then, hopefully that was the intent. But if that wasn’t the intent, and the movie fails to fully envelop us in its world, well, then, the movie’s probably a failure. Or, as my business/life partner husband says, “It’s probably an Adam Sandler movie.” (Forgive me, Adam, I liked most of your earlier work.) But I digress….

If, when you visit our restaurant, we fail to allow you to escape the stresses of life, if we can’t sweep you off of your feet and create a place where you are the center of our universe, if for but a small moment in time, then I feel we have failed in our goal.

We have tried to create this comfortable escape for you in a million tiny ways that, if we’ve done our jobs, you don’t know why you love it here so much or why you feel so comfortable—but you just DO.

Black and White Table Settings

It’s because we chose our chairs carefully so that they’d be comfortable for you, and not the ticking (forgive my phrasing) ass-time-bomb that so many restaurants use, as if they’re trying to make you uncomfortable after 20-30 minutes so that you’ll leave and they can turn the table again. Or maybe the owner(s) didn’t try out the chairs before they purchased them. We DID try out chairs—many, many different chairs before selecting ours. Our chair seats are wide, the backs supportive, and they even have little divots carved for your bum cheeks. Yes, bum divots. (It makes a difference.)

It’s because we researched colors, because we wanted the atmosphere to be warm and inviting so that you felt immediately at home. I’ve never been fond of the IKEA school of restaurant design. If I feel like I’m in a Mike Myer’s Dieter skit on SNL when I walk into a restaurant, that doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy—and I doubt it makes you feel that way, either. Blue is a bad interior color for restaurants, or really anywhere that you want to feel warm. Yellows can be harsh and overbearing, but if used sparingly and in the right spots, can add warmth. Why do I know this? Because if we wanted our customers to feel warm and at home, we had to learn about color.

It’s because of the hundreds of observations we intentionally made going out to other restaurants, noting the things we liked and didn’t like, the things that made us feel welcome and the things that didn’t, the food that turned us on and the foods that didn’t, and the interactions with restaurant personnel that were great, and the ones that weren’t so great.

I suppose that’s why restaurant ownership is the perfect place for me. I’ve always been a little on the short attention span side, and in owning a restaurant, one must wear many different hats and learn many different things. That suits me.

Glass of water, black and white

I’m not fond of the phrase “customer service.” Only because it has become a trite phrase used to death, but ringing hollow in so many places. It may also be because I think of our “customers” as “guests,” as if they were guests in our home, and I like to think that we make people feel that way as well. But we sometimes fail. Everyone fails from time to time. I have to tell you, though; I truly, genuinely HATE it when we do fail. And I’m not telling you this to gain any sympathy or acknowledgement. I’m telling you this because I sometimes think that people do not understand how truly personal a small business is to the people who own and run it. It is very, very personal.

We picked our staff, not necessarily because they had a great deal of experience in the restaurant industry, but because they were genuine during the interviews, personable, likeable, and showed a keen interest in making others happy. I can train someone to serve a plate of food. I cannot train them to have a sincere like of people or to want to please them and make them happy. That is an innate trait that cannot be trained into someone. This quality, to me, is far more important than a long and impressive resume of previous experience. I believe this assumption has played out in truth in our restaurant. (Although I am thrilled and proud that many of our servers do have a long and impressive resume of work experience in this industry and that they choose to work for us.)

I will admit that our training program is less than formal. It may even border on chaotic and “throw them into the fire” at times, depending on staffing needs. I will cop to this being one of our many shortcomings. We’re a small operation, and as such, long periods of training simply aren’t in the budget. We are working on implementing a more formal, written training program, and I hope that this will lessen our falling short in this area.

However, in our particular field, nothing substitutes for being in the trenches. I’ve learned so very much in our first five years of business that I cannot even believe that we were so naïve as to think we could make it in this industry. We’ve made mistakes. Our employees have made mistakes. And when we’ve recognized our mistakes, we’ve tried to make amends for them. Sometimes we’ve succeeded immensely and have gained a lifelong customer because we went the extra mile to make it right. We give all of our staff the authority to make things right for guests. They don’t have to come and explain the what’s and why’s of a situation. We trust them to know when we owe someone a mea culpa. If we don’t trust someone to know when that call needs to be made, they don’t work for us for very long. And “knowing when” is sometimes a function of being able to read people, to know to ask if they didn’t like their appetizer because they didn’t eat much of it. (And then to have the follow through to take it off of their bill.) To know that if you overhear that someone has had a miserable day that bringing them a dessert on the house could turn their day around. To know that smiling at a child playing sweetly with their mother and getting a big old smile back can also make your day in return.

The bottom line—you MUST like people and want to make them happy to be good at and to give honest customer service.

Lucky Piece Rose, International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon.

But don’t misunderstand me that I expect my staff to like everyone that walks through the door—they don’t. That’s not because they don’t try, believe me. They truly WANT to like everyone who walks through the door. But some people really do make that very difficult.

There’s the guy who wanted to leave his kids with us to eat while he went to the bar down the street to drink. Yes, really.

There’s the couple who have made waiting on them so very painful that when they come in, experienced servers will try to pawn them off on the new guy/gal, which will be a lesson in customer service for that new employee.

There are those people who threaten you with their never coming back because you are not giving them their way, when their way will be unfair or unpleasant to the other guests around them.

I’ll reiterate that it is our job to protect your ability (and our ability) to maintain that oasis free from the stresses that exist in your life outside of this little space that we have spent so much time, research, blood, sweat, and tears (literally) to make it as amazing for you as we possibly can. Sometimes that means pleasing some and angering others. We do our best to please everyone, so long as what they are demanding is reasonable, doable, and we are able to execute it without imposing difficulties upon other guests.

Misbehaving isn’t tolerated well. Remember, you are in “my house” so to speak and I wouldn’t let little Billy trample over my rosebushes at home and I won’t let him trample on other guests’ comfort here. I don’t feel that this is unreasonable, and frankly, neither should you. If you do, you are probably not going to want to be my guest. But if you understand that little Billy’s mom and dad are responsible for his behavior and I ask that he not run in the aisle while 550-degree disks of melted cheese are being shuffled to tables, well, then, you are probably going to like it here. It’s my job, and my staff’s job, to make sure that our guests understand imposing their will on you is not within the spectrum of their authority. You are paying the same money, too, and you deserve a good experience, too…right? Right.

So my staff and I have your back and we’ll continue to try to do right by you each and every day. We’re going to blow it sometimes and I hope you’ll give us a heads up and say, “Yeah…not so great this time.” And we’ll make up for it and do better next time, learning something valuable from you in the process that will allow us to raise our game. And to keep the veil of suspension of the realities of everyday life at bay for an hour or more, so we can make your day better for a just a little while. That’s all. We’re not curing cancer here… we’re slinging a few pies to please our guests. We are more than that, of course. And if we’ve done our job right, we’ve impacted your life in a positive way. And that’s the goal. Every day, every plate.

I Want You To Help Me!

Many times these last couple of days, I’ve seen people scream out into the Twittersphere, begging for customer service, expecting to get their problems solved, when help is just a phone call away.

Twitter isn’t always going to help you.

Razor Wire

Sure, the best companies may recognize that twitter is a quick-response option to small customer service requests, though I usually only seen these type of responses: “Please call XXX-XXX-XXXX or Email customer service for quicker response.” Which is great, you’ve gotten a response, but you still have work to do. What would have happened if you would have done one of those things in the first place? Quicker Service.

What You See Is All There Is.

The other day, a friend sent me this string of twitter responses from a Portland Bar/Restaurant. The customer was unhappy they were not moved to a different table in the establishment and took to twitter to explain their beleaguered plight. What they didn’t do is look back through the establishment’s tweet-stream. I did, I went back 4 pages of tweets, which is Twitter time could be four minutes or four months. What I noticed was the establishment’s stream was a real live person, responding to complaints; some reasonable and some not and the responses were, at most, in the tone of “stop bothering me.” Which, we would all say is horrible customer service, but, it’s consistent. And, when you’re consistent, it is what it is. Looking back over the numerous pages of tweets, they never once tried to quiet the customer, they never tried to solve the issue, they just explained their reasons and moved on.

Just Because You Want Help On Twitter Doesn’t Mean You’re Going To Get It.

Empty hallway

In customer service land we want to meet the customer wherever they reside. In my experience; however, 140 characters is rarely enough to solve the problem. Which means you need three or four messages to convey one quick answer. That’s not efficient, nor timely. Twitter isn’t staffed 24-7 and if you expect it to be, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Twitter isn’t always the best way to get results, sometimes, it’s only a way to feel more frustrated.

So many articles tell companies they must be on twitter to provide service. Yet, the better way to provide customer service would be to empower the front-line staff with the abilities and tools necessary to make decisions which affect the customer.

The back-and-forth banter on Twitter means that someone may still miss your company’s response and think you’re not providing service. And sometimes, there’s no action which will please the customer, so you’ll end up in a reoccurring quagmire of apologies until the person tires out.

Standing Tall

In my experience, there are far more effective means of getting great customer service: Pick up the phone. Email the Customer Service Help Team. Contact someone in Management. Write a letter. Write a blog. Then, after you’ve exhausted all other options, then find their Twitter or Facebook streams, see if they respond there, if so, reach out, direct them to your previous efforts and then expect service. Otherwise, you might just be spinning your mouse wheel.

Service Failure, Three Ways

Wow. We’ve all had experiences with a utility that makes us cringe. None have made me cringe more than the cable company. It’s a service many of us can’t really live without, yet, there’s no competition in that space. So, we’re forced to endure the worst of the worst when it comes to Customer Service. I’m certain my experience isn’t unique, just multiplied.

I moved across town recently, during this move I switched my internet service from Comcast to Centurylink (whom I’ve blogged about before because of their fantastic customer service at every turn,) and downgraded to the most basic of cable service. I knew this would mean that I would lose my @comcast email addresses, which also served as my log in to pay my bill. Easy enough. At the direction of the service agent who helped me transition my service, I changed my log in information to reflect my new email address and log in so I could have access once my email addresses terminated. Easy. …Or so I thought.

Old computers
(Used under creative commons, thanks eurlief)

First Fail: Fast-Forward: Chatting For Service
I went to log in last week and found that I couldn’t sign it. It said: “No account found.” So I used the “lost password” link, as you’re supposed to, and found my email was not in the system. Hmmm.

So I used the “Chat with a customer service specialist” option. After verifying my existence, the customer service representative had me try to sign in, (I’ve done that.) Try the lost password link (I’ve done that.) and then try the register a new log in link (I hadn’t tried that.) When I attempted to register a new account I received an “Account already registered to ID: ” error. Once I relayed that error to the customer service representative, the agent typed: “I’m sorry, I don’t know what to do with that error, you’re going to have to call customer service: 1-800-XFINITY” and then the chat window terminated. (Wait, wasn’t I just talking to Customer Service?)

Neon Telephone

Second Fail: Calling Customer Service: Picking The Phone
So, after fuming about being terminated from “Customer Service” Chat. I stepped back into my issue and called Customer Service. After navigating their phone tree… I finally got to a live body, who said their name so fast I couldn’t write it down (I usually take note of a customer service representative’s name so I can thank them later,) and I then launched into my issue. After confirming my identity and my account (name is Nicholas Church,) he continued to address me as “ma’am.” Nothing gets under my collar quicker as being called ma’am on the phone. After the 3rd time, I corrected him, his reply:

…”I’m Sorry Ma’am.”

“ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING TO ME?!” I was fuming. I relayed my issue again, that I couldn’t pay my bill, and after another 3 “ma’am”s, I paid my bill, after confirming I wouldn’t be charged the fee for paying on the phone (I sincerely hate paying fees for paying bills, I think it’s the stupidest business decision) and hung up the phone while still fuming and took to Twitter, what seemed to be the last bastion of respectable customer service.

Tweet Me
(used under creative commons, thanks TPorter2006!)

Third Fail: Twitter – 140 Characters of Service
Now, in the last couple of years, Comcast has been known for their Twitter customer service (@Comcastcares) – If you had an issue, you could reach out to them and see second-tier resolution. Not exactly first-call, but your problem would be solved. So I reached out. Explained the issue, my steps to resolution, omitting my frustration with being called “ma’am” since it wasn’t relevant to the discussion. I went through all the testing steps they suggested, (Same ones as above) and then was told that an internet specialist would follow up with me later. I waited 4 days, spanning a weekend, with no response. On the fifth day, I followed up with the Twitter Service Rep who was handling my issue. He had no recollection of my previous issue, I had to remind him of the situation, and I was told, again, there would be an internet service representative calling. The next day, now a week later, I received a call from the internet support rep, re-explained my issue and after three separate calls, finally was able to log into my Comcast account.

Where I noticed I have a pending charge for paying on the phone. That will be another call, for another day.

If you’re looking for a great way to fail at customer service, the above experience is a textbook example of how to do it in three separate modes of communication.

Failing at customer service, Xfinity’s triple play.

Why Won’t You Let Me Give You Money?

I’ve been working with an organization though my workplace. We (my company) have been trying to find a way to offer some sort of sponsorship or partnership, and since the budget was tight, I’ve been exploring it on my own before presenting it to those who sign the checks.

My first message went to a friend over social media. I prefaced the statement with: “We don’t have a lot of money to spend, but we’re looking for creative ways to offer up a partnership.” The response I got was a form letter and WAY out of our price range. So, I appraised my supervisors and backed off of it since this event really doesn’t benefit our company in any way. It’s just industry related, and therefore, something we would have liked to be involved in.

Fountains of change venetian hotel las vegas

Then, I mentioned my beleaguered attempts to a friend of mine, who was closer to this organization than I was, who must have relayed the message to someone in their organization because they reached out to me via email, We set a conference call time that was mutually agreeable and I planned my day’s schedule around it. Then, I sat at my desk at the prescribed time and waited… and waited… and waited until the end of my workday. Nothing, no email, no call, no tweet… So I wrote it off.

I got an email response the next day apologizing for the day getting away from them and no attempt to reschedule. Until now that the event is getting closer.

I’ve spoken with my managers and we’ve all agreed on the same thing, we shouldn’t have to badger a company to give them money. We wanted to do something, instead, we’re going to stay on the sidelines, save our money and put it to better uses other places that really benefit our customers.

This was a great moment to gain exposure and while it doesn’t really benefit us in the short or long term, it’s industry and something we were happy to make a big deal out of, now we’re not.

Empty hallway

Do you or your company make it really hard for your customers or partners to give you money? Phone trees that add 6 or 7 layers just to get to someone who wants to take your credit card over the phone is extremely cost prohibitive. Making it harder for customers to give you their money makes them realize, every time, how much they don’t want to give you their money and they just might go somewhere else with their money. Think about that.

The Birth of a “Schnikism”

My Friend Wendi Eiland, who is totally awesome by the way (And a totally stellar insurance agent!), made this for me. It truly shows the evolution of how I write. It’s like she was on my shoulder…

How A Schnikism is Born