Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Where's the Leadership?

A lesson in How Not To Lead...

I had the most frustrating customer service interaction yesterday. When I expressed my concerns and asked to speak with a manager, hoping to get some resolution to the problem, I witnessed a complete lack of leadership. Without divulging the gory details, here is the gist of the encounter:

I approached the customer Service desk and was ignored for about 10 minutes. There were three representatives working, and only two customers ahead of me. I stood in line and waited patiently. When it was my turn, no one recognized me and offered assistance. Finally, one of the representatives looked at me and asked if I "needed something."

I began to explain the problem. Before I could finish, the representative told me, in a pretty defensive way, it would cost me $45. When I asked why, she explained that if I used the insurance I was paying for, it would be $85. She did this smugly, and she never explained the $45 charge. When I asked again about the charge, she told me "that is the way it is." I was so completely annoyed that I asked, politely, if I could speak with a manager.

The manager, instead of apologizing for any inconvenience, and taking the opportunity to hear my concerns, hastily explained the policy. He did not take the opportunity to educate me as to my options. Nor did he offer any incentives to continue using the service. He merely reiterated that there would be a $45 fee. As I was about to leave, and pretty upset by this point, he did mention that a warranty claim would be placed. If the manufacturer deemed it to be a legitimate warranty claim, the $45 fee would be credited to my account. I explained that if I had been told that from the beginning, I would not have been upset. He walked away without saying a word. Want to know the kicker?

After he walked away, the representative told me that they would only credit $35--she had the same smug, "you're going to pay anyway" expression. Why is it still going to cost me $10? I'll likely never know.

The manager had a real opportunity here. Not only could he have helped me understand the fees (I'm agreeable to paying them if they are reasonable and I understand their purpose), but, had he taken the time to work with me, he might have arrived at an agreeable solution for both of us. In the process, he would have been modeling excellent customer service behavior and empowering his staff to take ownership of the claims process. He might have turned me into an evangelist for his company, and I would have been writing about my positive experience. Instead, he reinforced the representative's Us vs. Them mentality and has ensured future difficult situations.


Anonymous said...

I also had service with another provider for approx. 4-5 years, always paid my bills on time. BUT, the time came where I needed a new phone battery because my cell wouldn't hold a charge anymore. I went to the retailer 1 hour before closing, hoping to be waited on, just like apparently everyone else in the 38134 zipcode did. The manager then tried to separate the long line into different categories depending on customers' issues. Because I was sold a battery charger just 2-3 months to this night, I felt confident I could get a replacement. WRONG!!! When I finally got to the counter, at 5 minutes until closing, I could barely stutter out my "issue," when the CSR bluntly told me: "I CAN'T HELP YOU! NEXT!" I was practically trampled on by the next customer in line. The very day, I changed my service and number to another provider without any issue at all. I tried to pay the last bill from my initial carrier but since I had transferred my number when I switched carriers, cell phone company #1 had NO RECORD of my ever being a customer. Do you honestly think I wanted to pay them after that LOVELY customer experience anyway?!?!

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