Yesterday I had two very different incidents which involved errors and customer service. With the economy as it is in such a precarious position, I would think that each and every business would strive to give the best customer service possible. One place I felt passed the test. The other failed miserably. I thought it was interesting how things were handled so differently in the two instances. I thought they were worth sharing.
A couple of weeks ago, I ran out of checks from my Chicago bank and needed to order new ones. The representative from my bank was nice and courteous and the ordering process was rather easy, however she wasn’t sure if they were going to be able to ship them to my Canadian address. She thought that they may need to go to my Chicago area address and be forwarded here. She said she would try her best.
i waited, not knowing where they would wind up. It was important to get them because unfortunately, my debit card also has been acting up and the strip on it hasn’t been working properly. I also ordered a new card, but in that case, they would only mail it to the address my bank had (my US one) for security reasons (understandably) and it would need to be re-routed to me here in Canada. The only other way I would be able to get to my money in that account would be wire transfers, which cost $50 each. My pay all goes into that account, as well as the web site proceeds, so it was important to get things in order again quickly.
I received the checks in yesterday’s mail. I was very happy that they were here and pleased, as I needed to go to the bank and transfer some money for some bills. In reading the checks however, I noticed that they spelled my name wrong. It was spelled properly in the business name, but not in my own name above it. They had a toll free number to call and I dialed it, thinking it would be a hassle to get it corrected.
The woman who answered pulled up my order on her computer after asking a few questions. She couldn’t have been nicer or more courteous. She also apologized for the error and said the order would be printed immediately at no cost whatsoever to me. She told me it was OK to use any of the checks I needed, as the bank routing numbers and the account numbers were correct and that was the most important thing. She said that I would just probably want to void out the duplicate numbers when I received the new checks to avoid confusion and I would be set. I hung up the phone feeling much better. The initial anxiety of seeing the mistake and thinking it would be a problem to get it fixed had disappeared. It was a good feeling to see a company own up to its mistakes and not try to blame the customer.
Five minutes later, the phone rang again and it was the same woman. She just wanted to recheck the spelling to make sure that she did the new order correctly. She again apologized for bothering me and was professional and pleasant. I hung up feeling good.
I next had to go to the bank and do some errands. It was what Winnie the Pooh called a “cold, blustery day” where the wind was howling and it was raining slightly off and on. In driving into town, we saw that the river had overflowed and even crossed the roads in some places. I had never seen it so high and apparently it was at a record height.
I had shown pictures of the old mill down the road where there was a waterfall, and I am sorry to say that half the dam is gone in that area. The water was almost up to the bottom of the bridge and the force that the river is running is tremendous. This was the place where only a few short weeks ago, there was no water whatsoever running over the dam for weeks because the river was so low. It must be a shock for people who live on the shore and there is certainly some damages.
In any case, we went to the bank and did some errands and by then it was after 1:30 and we were hungry. We stopped at the local Subway for something to eat. I love their soup and thought this would be the perfect day for a nice hot bowl of it.
We walked in and there were only two employees there. It was after regular lunch hour and a quiet time so it wasn’t unusual that it would not be busy. There was only one other table of customers there. The girls prepared our order and we went to a table to sit down and eat.
When I opened up the soup, I not only found it was only 2/3 full, but also quite cold. It wasn’t even in the least bit warm. I was quite disappointed because I was cold and damp and it would have hit the spot. They had a microwave sitting right on the counter and I got up to ask if the girl would reheat it. There was no one to be found.
I heard laughing and talking in the back area, but there was no one at the front counter. I waited for probably two or three minutes and no one came out. I felt kind of silly standing there with a bowl of soup in my hand and finally just set it on the counter and went back to start my salad. Two times I saw her come to the font for something and before I could jump up and get her attention she darted to the back area. I was a bit frustrated.
On the third attempt, I finally got her attention. I (nicely) asked her if she would heat the soup, and without saying a word or any change in her expression she took the bowl, popped it into the microwave and again disappeared into the back. I thought I would sit down and eat my lunch while I waited, but after a minute or so without seeing her return, I got back up. I could see the soup in the microwave, boiling all over the place. There was still a minute and a half left on the timer too, and it was just boiling away, making a mess all over the inside of the oven. I tried again to get her attention from the back, but all I could hear was chatting and laughing and there was no one available. I called out but they couldn’t hear me over their talking.
I finally just shook my head and went back to my seat to eat. Eventually the microwave stopped and she came out and saw the mess she created. I walked up to the counter and she looked at me with kind of a nasty look and was putting the bowl (which was a mess) into another bowl so it would be double layered and was about to hand it to me with only about 1/4 inch of soup in it. She didn’t say a word.
I said “forget it” meaning I didn’t want the remnants of what was left and she just turned away and went to look after the mess. She kind of ignored me and after a minute of watching her, I went back to my seat and finished my salad. She spent the next several minutes cleaning up the mess she made. When I was done, I went to the counter, figuring I would take a bowl of soup home at least. She and her companion were now at the counter, as more customers walked in. She looked at me as if I just walked in and didn’t say anything. I asked her if I can have my soup, and she looked at the other girl and then back at me as if she didn’t have a clue and didn’t respond. I asked a second time and told her that I wanted to just take it home and she finally answered that they were ‘out of soup’. Both girls had that deer in the headlights look of bewilderment and I was just so amazed at their attitudes that I was speechless.
I probably could have said something or asked for my money back, but I couldn’t even speak. I couldn’t tell if it was stupidity or obstinacy but all I knew was I wanted to get the heck out of there and as far away from it as I could. My friend and I drove away and were both shaking our heads at the lack of concern or care or responsibility. Is this what the future of our world is coming to?
It is only a bowl of soup, and it isn’t that big of a deal, but it was mostly the principle and attitude that bothered me the most. I thought about the two incidents and the two mistakes and how both of them were handled so differently. I realize that everyone makes mistakes sometimes, as I do myself. It happens. But it is how you handle things when they are made that makes the biggest difference, I feel.
On the one hand, the check company couldn’t have been more gracious. Their handling of the situation didn’t try to put me on the spot or blame the customer for their error. She even told me that they reprint the orders free of charge whether the error is theirs, the bank’s or the customers. They wanted to make it right.
The Subway employee didn’t give a crap who’s fault it was and didn’t do anything to make it better. No apology. No taking responsibility. She could obviously care less if she ever saw me again (and hopefully she won’t). No care whatsoever for her job. To her it is just a paycheck and she will stay there for “x” amount of hours a day to get the paycheck and not give a darn about what she is doing. It is very sad.
I make mistakes from time to time with my business. When I do though, I try to make it right and make the customer happy. Sometimes it involves giving an extra pattern. Sometimes a phone call. Always an apology and owning up to my error. Even when my customers make a mistake, I don’t question them and make it right as quickly as I can. That is why they come back. That is why I will (hopefully) have a successful business.
I think that the point I am trying to show is that it isn’t whether you make the mistake that is the most important thing, it is how you deal with things when you do. It can make a huge impression on your customers and those around you.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"