Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Why Is It So Hard to Deliver Good Customer Service?

Delivering good customer service seems so simple. So why is it so hard for so many service providers to get it right?

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really tired of being treated so poorly by people who are supposed to be serving me. I’m not that demanding as a patron. I don’t need that much. I just want the basics of customer service. I want people to give me what they would expect if our roles were reversed.

This past week I was up in Canada working with a client company. I was staying at the “finest” hotel in the area. But they couldn’t even get the basics right. All I wanted was a clean, safe, quiet, comfortable, and fully-functional room. They missed on all five critical points.

I think guestroom attendants must clean the hotel rooms in the dark. That’s why they miss so much when they clean. This also would account for why they didn’t know that the light bulbs were burned out in the bathroom. Not a single light in the bathroom worked.

These same guestroom attendants also must not know people want to sleep in. I guess they assume everyone wants to get up early since they have to get up early. That’s why they stand in the hallway outside the hotel room and talk to each other in loud voices. I have no idea what they think the “do not disturb” sign on the door means.

But I really wasn’t sleeping anyway. In fact, I hadn’t been asleep all night. In order to save money (I assume) the builders of the hotel used only a single door between adjoining rooms. The thinness of the door allowed me to hear every word of the conversation of the people in the room next to me. They must have had a lot to say because they stayed up all night talking.

My next fun experience was in the shower. In another effort to save money the hotel didn’t provide bar soap in the room. Instead they had a soft soap dispenser in the shower. What a hassle! Do you know how many times you have to push the button on the dispenser in order to get enough soap to clean your entire body? Later that day I went to the store and purchased a bar of soap so I wouldn’t have to go through that experience again. I don't understand why I have to bring my own supplies to a quality hotel.

They also didn’t have a drain plug in the bathroom sink. Well, actually they did. It was one of those little rubber stoppers. I haven’t seen one of those rubber things since the 1800s. But it certainly works. The trick is unplugging the drain afterwards. I had to reach my hand into the dirty, scalding water to pull the plug. Not exactly what I consider to be a quality hotel experience.

As I left my room that first morning I noticed that the door to my room was open. Apparently the door did not close fully on it’s own. I hadn’t noticed. That meant the door was open the entire time while I “slept” that night, while I was in the shower, and while I was getting dressed. I’m glad no one came in and saw me in my unaware.

I think hotel owners and employees should be forced to spend several weeks living in their hotel so they can suffer what their guests suffer. Then they would see what I have to go through each week when I travel. Again, all I want is a clean, safe, quiet, comfortable, and fully-functional room. It can’t be that tough to get it right, can it?

The other day my wife and I went to a movie at the theater. It was a very suspenseful movie. Just at the most intense part of the movie near the end two theater employees in the projection room started a loud, lighthearted conversation. We could barely hear the movie over their laughter. When we complained to the manager she grilled us with the third degree. We had to be mistaken. There was no way we could have heard theater employees talking in the projection room. Then she went on to complain that other patrons had complained about the noise too. She never offered to investigate, never said she’d take any action, and never apologized.

Why did we even bother to tell her? Because we thought management would want to know so they could do something about it. But no one seems to care anymore.

I avoid using drive-up windows at fast food restaurants anymore. The odds of getting the wrong order are increasingly high.

I ordered a pizza delivered this past week. I didn’t notice until after the delivery person drove away that it was the wrong pizza. I wish I hadn’t tipped him so much.

I seldom ask clerks in stores technical questions about the merchandise. Most clerks have no idea about the products they are selling. It used to be that salespeople learned about their products and those of their competitors so they could help the patron make an informed decision before a purchase. But now, it seems, clerks only know how to ring up the sale on the cash register. Unfortunately, some don’t even know how to do that.

I wish when clerks asked if they could help you, they really could. I wish people in the hospitality industry would be hospitable. I wish service providers would provide service. I wish I didn’t have to wait for waiters. I wish I could trust that I would get good service wherever I go. I wish I had confidence when I patronized a business that it would be a good experience every time.

I would be such a loyal customer to a business that merely gives me what I want, how I want it, when I want it. I really don’t expect that much. I want my hot food hot, my cold food cold. I want what I ordered. I want things I buy to work. I want my bill to be accurate. I want a good night’s sleep in a hotel. Is this too much to ask?

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