Customer Service – Whose Problem is it?

It's not my problem that it snowed.

As business owners we are always looking for ways to tweak our businesses.  I look at other businesses to see how I might emulate good things they do.  I am also still surprised when a business does something so un-customer friendly that I stand there thinking, “Seriously? Did they really say that?”

Here is the story of poor customer service that left me bewildered.  I tell it so that we may all learn from it.

Since coming to New York, I have used the same auto service dealer.  Nice enough and fairly efficient.  During my first year here I changed my phone number about 4 times. (Long story, but I it took me several phone numbers to settle in.)  Consequently, every time I took my car in it seemed that I had to give them a different phone number.  This is important because they use your phone number to find your file on their system.  Needless to say, just making an appointment was a bit taxing as the first question was always, “What is your phone number?”   Then I would have to guess which phone number I had given them last.  I was patient with this because I figured it was my fault due to all the phone number madness.

The last time I made an appointment to bring in the car for service I asked the gal to ensure that we had the phone number straightened out and she assured me that all was well.  The day before the appointment I received an automated reminder call, on a phone number I no longer use.  Aughhhhh, how could this be?

Upon arrival at the auto dealer, I was greeted very nicely and the gal was very helpful. When I asked her if she could find out why the phone number situation was still mixed up, she assured me that she would check it out for me.  Great!  She seemed so helpful and had one of those very cheerful dispositions.

When my car was ready and she was asking me for my money, I again asked her about the phone number.  She showed me the phone numbers on my record and said there was no problem.  I told her that there was a problem and that somewhere in the system an old phone number was ‘stuck’ and clearly there was a problem in their system.  I wanted to assure her that I wasn’t blaming her, but surely if things are happening that drive a customer crazy they would want to know about it.

OK, pay attention now, because here it comes…

She told me that they pay a separate company to make the reminder calls.  She wanted to know if I had called that company back to straighten it out.  (Really, as I am writing this I am still not believing she asked me that.)  After I lifted my jaw off of the ground, I very kindly told her that it was not my problem to fix, but theirs and how much I would appreciate it if she would pass on the issue to someone who could look into it.

BTW, this is where the cheery, smiley face turned into a look that could kill.

What is the lesson here?

Any problem that your business has which interferes with a happy customer experience is your responsibility to address.  The customer is free to go elsewhere.  They do not get paid to straighten out your problems.

In addition, be grateful when customers point out some of the problems you have which you are not aware of.  It is better when they tell you about them than to get annoyed and just bring their business elsewhere.

All businesses have problems now and then.  Most customers are forgiving of this when they know that you are interested in correcting them and ensuring a great customer experience.  Forget about getting defensive and focus on finding a way to fix the problem.

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