A funny thing happened on my way to getting customer satisfaction

In the same vein that I think that naming and shaming has positive effects, I think that giving credit where it’s due also is important.

Last week I used social media to rail against some poor responses that I was getting from a local company (which I wont name, because that’s what I agreed in some phone conversations; but my Twitter account is public). Someone who read what I wrote kindly suggested I call the CEO and get him aware; he’s know to take such matters seriously. I refused: my rationale being that I do not think that the CEO needs to address each operational snafu. I accepted that he/she may be best position, but I also thought the systems put in place should be given their chances to rectify problems. Perhaps, being a bit purist, I also thought that while I suffered in the short-term, in the long run the company would suffer as customers left. But, in Jamaica, using contacts in high places in part of how we solve problems. So, I called the company and asked why the technician had not kept the appointment the day before, which had been arranged at their convenience. The reply was ‘It slipped his mind.’ I saw a swirl of problems with that answer, even if it were accurate and not flippant. Anyway, I was promised another visit within a few hours that morning. Surprisingly, a technician came within the hour. However, he did not know why he had been sent–another problem, here. I showed him what was wrong (wires that had been taken out of a wall that had not been put back and had their covering plate reset) and he fixed it quickly. He pointed out some other work that had not been finished and said he would report it to his supervisor for attention. Good, I thought. This thing is sinking in.

While I pondered what about the management of the company was not right and allowed it to not realise that jobs were not being done as intended, friends in low and high places were on the move. About an hour after my first rant, I got a phone call from the CEO of the company in question. “Social media is powerful,” were his opening words. He told me that a friend of mine had relayed my ‘distress’ and given him my number. (The friend later fessed up gladly that she’d been the prod.) We talked for about 10 minutes and he said he agreed with my concerns and irritation and that he would ensure that the matter was addressed. I pointed out that I had already had a visit and the reason for my rage had been addressed and that supplementary work was going to be done. I added the problem of the technician being sent on a ‘blind date’. The CEO acknowledged that much needed to be changed. Before noon, another visit had been made and the supplementary work (cementing over some holes that had been created) was done. Job completed, finally.

Later in the day, I got two calls from a supervisor to check that all had been done to may satisfaction. I also got another call from the CEO in the evening to check the same thing.

All-in-all a good outcome, for a little bit of angst on my part. But, the basic issue of what it took to trigger that was still there in my mind. I wont know how well that’s been addressed until I have another issue, but I suspect that things will have been made better for a wider group than me. So, that was the name and shame outcome.

The other side happened this week with three different companies, one of our major appliance suppliers, one of our major banks, and the other a major American airline. The common theme with both interactions was that the person dealing with me did so with both enthusiasm and humour.

The appliance issue was simple–an ice maker had been replaced but now it was not making ice. “Oh, that’s terrible!” said the ATL operative–it wasn’t, but it suggested a level of concern that was good to hear. We ran through the timeline of the repairs and neither of us had a record of it being done, though I had the old part and the box that the new part had been shipped in from overseas. Eventually, we reached a compromise and set in train arrangements to get a technician to visit. I said I was ready to get back to my fruit breakfast, which set off a conversation about a good way to start eating each day. I offered to give the representative banana bread if that would speed the process. She told me it wouldn’t but it was nice to be offered some cake. We bantered for a few more minutes, then cut the call. Now, whether she told her colleagues about the jerk and his banana bread or said nothing or shared the story as a joke didn’t matter to me; I felt that I was more than another call and another invoice number.

The bank issue was also simple. Out of concern that my account had been compromised, Scotiabank had sent me a replacement ATM card in January, but had just surfaced. However, I had encountered a problem with online banking and had a new card issued before receiving the card that I had just found. Could I destroy the one just received? I asked the bank via their Twitter account. Probably, but check, came the reply. I called and got through to someone in a minute. “Did it take long for you to get connected?” was the first question. I hadn’t and the representative was glad about that. I explained the situation and she confirmed the card numbers and some personal security details, and told me I could go ahead and destroy the card. “Was there anything else, I could help with?” I replied $1 million deposited into my account would be nice. “Then take out a loan and it’ll be there shortly.” I liked that, and we both laughed.

Finally, the airline. I tried calling American on Skype; no answer, just ringing. I tried three times; same situation. I raised the matter via Twitter; the company replied in five minutes that they had checked the number and got through. I called again. Yes! I went through the familiar voice prompts and eventually started speaking to a representative. I explained my issue: I’ve some long flights to make to South America and was looking to upgrade, but kept seeing ‘no upgrade offered’ and had no idea what that meant. She explained that it meant I needed to call the company (why not have a message that says that?). She went fishing and came back to say that no seats were open now, but I would be waitlisted (and the upgrade would cost me miles and a co-pay amount). No problem. Issue resolved, as far as possible. Happy customer.

Many morals are in these stories. One is that social media is indeed powerful, if only in that it allows words and thoughts to spread faster than anything else to which we have become accustomed, and when they fall on others with whom they resonate then watch out, as the reactions can be swift and hard to control. But, I like social media because it works

and has the advantage often of impersonal contact that is better than when prejudices come face-to-face with each other. Fortunately, I only have a few thousand followers, but my followers have followers, and as people know people, then the adage of ‘The people, united, shall never be defeated’ comes forth loud and strong 🙂

Another moral is that our age does not need physical movement and face-to-face contact to get things done. I couldn’t possibly have dealt with two companies in Jamaica and another in the USA in minutes without the aid of modern telecommunications, and when I was asked if I did not have time to go to ATL to pay the deposit and responded that I needed no movement, as my money would do the walking, the point was well taken.

Palms don’t need to be greased or personal pride sacrificed to get things done. Yes, how people are trained is important, but more so, how they apply the good training and spot in themselves signs that they are falling down on the job. It doesn’t take much, but when it’s absent… Wishing you all a great day in your interactions 🙂

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)