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Customer Service

It's the little things, and the big things, that matter

It Always Matters
How a company treats its customers is as important as how it treats its employees. Customer service always matters. Employee morale always matters. And both directly affect each other.

Today I bring you three examples of customer service that happened recently. Two I personally experienced; and one was endured by the Santa Clara County Fire Department. What we have is the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Good
I recently went to the auto parts store for a minor purchase. They treated my $20 sale as though it were the most important transaction of their day. Their attitude towards customer service is always outstanding. A larger competitor is right across the street, but I always choose the smaller chain because they care about each sale.

I reward good customer service — and a good customer experience — by voting with my wallet. $20 isn't going to make or break any business, but it all adds up.

The Bad
I recently needed to have a shirt cleaned and pressed, and I needed it for the next afternoon. This was a short-notice situation, but I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal. The first shop I went to said they could do it, but they were very busy (she then motioned to all the work being done behind her). She said it would be a two-shirt minimum, and it would require a "rush charge". Unfortunately, they could not tell me what the extra charge would be until I picked up the shirt the next day. If they were too busy to be able to tell me what it would cost, then they were too busy to wash one extra shirt.

The next two places I tried both said they could not provide next-day service (both farmed their laundry out to another service). They both seemed to think my request for next-day service was unreasonable. I also tried a wash ’n fold laundromat, who told me they could do it, but they had a weight minimum. This proprietor was polite and professional. She was genuinely apologetic that they could not service a single shirt.

The last place I tried was more than happy to provide next-day service for a single shirt. The price was $1.95, and the shirt was ready at noon as they promised. I happened upon this business accidentally while headed to buy a new shirt. I know where I’ll go for any other dry cleaning or laundry needs in the future.

The Ugly
While fighting California's largest-ever wildfire, the Santa Clara County Fire Department had their cell data throttled by Verizon. You read that right - Verizon throttled the cell data of first responders while they were actively fighting a fire. SCCFD's "unlimited data" was throttled because they exceeded Verizon’s data cap ("unlimited" does not actually mean unlimited). This severely affected SCCFD’s ability to communicate with personnel on the ground who were battling the fire.

Verizon claims that the throttling was just a "customer service error", which is hogwash. After SCCFD notified Verizon of the problem, Verizon continued to throttle SCCFD’s data. The public outrage towards Verizon was easy to predict. After Verizon removed the speed limitations they proposed a new (more expensive) data plan for SCCFD and similar organizations.

Some members of Congress have called for FTC investigations into Verizon’s handling of this. There have also been statements tying this event to the need to reinstate Net Neutrality. Verizon not only miscalculated the public’s response, but they completely missed the political backlash that they most deservedly received.

My personal experience with Verizon’s customer service is dreadful. It was so bad that I switched to another carrier after 12 years of paying for 3k - 4k minutes per month. I endured the dropped calls and less than great coverage area with the new carrier. The new carrier improved its service area and call quality over the last decade. I have never looked back.

It Matters
How I'm treated by a business directly impacts my continued patronage. I'm not looking to be treated special, I just expect to be treated well. The employees of the auto parts store aren't just going through the motions. They are truly happy to service customers. The cleaners who felt my request for next-day service was unreasonable should learn to handle those requests better. The cleaners who felt next-day service was worthy of an extra charge should be willing to quote that fee upfront. And Verizon, well, their problems are systemic and long-lasting. Good or bad, customer service starts at the top.

We try to treat our clients special. We try to provide a high level of customer service as well as being honest and forthright. My mechanic is like that, and it's why I trust him implicitly. If he told me that I needed a new flux capacitor I wouldn't bat an eye, but I would want to buy it at my local auto parts store.

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We are a small team with a lot of experience, specializing in software development, design, and workflow, process & project management. We are fiercely dedicated to helping you do what you do best — run your business — without getting bogged down in the mountains of paper and hours of screen time required to do it. We are equally dedicated to protecting your privacy and your data. Learn more about our privacy policy.