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Customer Service Isn’t Just Dead… It was MURDERED!

 

I hate being reminded that general common courtesy (as well as common sense, a lot of the time) is just NOT common anymore. I’m left, after numerous interactions and transactions on a daily basis, scratching my head wondering where the service is. Is it just acceptable now to provide sub-par service? Is it OK to be rude to a customer? Is it just no longer a focus of companies to provide training for and more so, demand their employees provide good service? I’m truly beginning to wonder.

Let me tell you about the kind of day I had… it started with Kohl’s department store. Many of you know that Paul and I are expecting our very first baby, Luke! We’ve had sort of a tumultuous pregnancy and after a scare we quickly realized we needed to start buying the essentials. On Sunday, I noticed that Kohl’s was having a sale… I also had a coupon for 20% off and free shipping (which ended that same day). While browsing their site I’d found several things we needed and promptly scooped them up (along with some savings). This morning, however, I’d received an email saying that they cancelled my order, with no further information.

I was quickly frustrated.

Not jumping to conclusions, I simply called the number on the email and discovered it was their fraud department. I was unsure why I was directed there, but none the less, I waited in the queue and finally spoke to a live person. I explained the situation, gave them my information and then upon hearing the next few things… I really got boiling. Let me recap the conversation:

Kohl’s: This order was being shipped to a Tara Furiani. Correct?

Me: Right.

Kohl’s: But the card used to make the purchase was in the name of Paul Furiani.

Me: Uh-huh. That’s my husband.

Kohl’s: Well, he needs to place the order.

Me: Umm… what are you talking about?

Kohl’s: Is Paul Furiani there?

Me: Yes.

Kohl’s: I need to speak with him and verify.

Me: Ok. (Hands the phone to Paul)

Paul: Hello?

Kohl’s: Is this Paul Furiani?

Paul: Yes.

Kohl’s: Are you aware that a Tara Furiani placed an order for baby related items using your credit card?

Paul: Um… yes. She’s my wife.

Kohl’s: Can you verify what items she purchased?

Paul: No… she placed the order, can’t you speak to her about this? This doesn’t really make any sense!

Kohl’s: So Tara Furiani used your credit card?

Paul: Ok, first of all… it’s our credit card. She’s on the account too and second, what is the issue here?

Kohl’s: An order cannot be shipped in someone else’s name and billed to someone else.

Paul: Well, what about gift orders? This is ridiculous… it’s the same shipping and billing address that you’re charging and sending to. Here’s Tara.

Kohl’s: What you’ll need to do is have Paul re-place the order and make sure it’s shipping to him, in his name.

Me: Ok, I will re-order and just put his name.

Kohl’s: No, you cannot do that. Your husband needs to place the order.

Me: Right.

From here; I hung up and began to cry. I know… I know… I am not even a “crier” but I’m pregnant and hormonal and this just sent me over the edge. I would understand if Kohl’s needed to verify the card, had it been being shipped to another address. But the billing and shipping addresses were the same. The ONLY difference was my name, Tara Furiani, was in the ship to field and my husband, Paul Furiani, was listed in the bill to field. The real kicker came when the Kohl’s fraud person told me that I also would not be able to use my Sunday only promo code.

Suffice it to say, I’m adding Kohl’s to my list of places that I will no longer patronize. I’ll also use it in what not to do, in customer service situations and let everyone I know (which is a good amount of people, both personally & professionally) not to shop with them either.

In a time where America is struggling financially, more and more businesses are going into bankruptcy (and a good number closing altogether) and “nice to haves” just aren’t even considered… why wouldn’t a business do everything it could to keep whatever business they still have? To me, there is nothing more impactful to your bottom line like good, old fashioned, SERVICE.

Word of mouth is powerful… can we say Apartment Ratings? Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Yelp? TripAdvisor? People talk and I know, for one, I’ve been TALKING about Kohl’s all day long and NOT in a good way (obviously). A smile, a friendly tone… heck, some civility at this point… could have totally changed this whole experience for me.

At Sterling, we believe that customer loyalty is achieved by exceeding customers’ expectations. That is the cornerstone of our business, and the foundation of all we do. No matter the objective of our customer, our goal is to develop and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship.

So, how does a rapidly growing organization stay attentive to their customers’ needs? How do they not only maintain good customer service, but continue to surpass their expectations?

The mission adopted by our colleagues is to exceed customer expectations by providing “+1” service. This involved first identifying our customers’ expectations, achieving those expectations, and then providing something further to exceed them.

This new initiative, called “Sterling 925,” drives our company culture. Why 925? Well, that is the atomic weight of sterling silver, and we are nothing less than Sterling! This initiative will continue to evolve as Sterling does. Customers will always be the heart of our business, and our charge is to embrace the challenge of finding new ways to provide “Sterling Service” and exceed their expectations into the future.

What does your company do to ensure it doesn’t miss the mark, from a customer service standpoint?

Tara Furiani is the Director of Training & Marketing at The Sterling Group. To learn more about The Sterling Group visit: www.thesterlinggrp.com To learn more about Tara, visit her website at: www.tarafuriani.com.

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Oh my...what a crazy experience you had. While great customer service always pays off, I agree...it's never been more important than now...when everyone is focused on getting value...and service delivery plays a key role in the value formula.

That said, great service isn't dead everywhere. I have to take a moment and brag about our clients. The SatisFacts Index is our annual national benchmark of results from our annual surveys and Insite, our 365 day/year feedback program. Year after year the Index scores grow. More than that, most components of the Index are in the "Superior" award winning category (4.00-4.49 on a 5 point scale). As you well know, companies that are committed to great service, where it's in their DNA from top to bottom, focus a great deal of attention on all the metrics that communicate the level of service being delivered. They not only talk the talk, but walk the walk...and then monitor it all. And the beauty of this focus is in the bottom line...in terms of how we take care of who's number one...the owner of the asset. The great attention to service and retention has an enormous return:

- Per our 2011 client satisfaction survey of our own clients, they reported a resident turnover rate 17 points below the average cited in the NAA Income and Expense Survey.

- For a 5,000 unit portfolio, that means the following in terms of their performance vs. an average company: 850 fewer move-outs; at $4,166/move-out (vacancy loss, concessions, marketing and leasing costs, turn costs, etc.) this reduced turnover leads to NOI being $3,541,100 higher than a typical portfolio; using a 6 cap, this means the portfolio's value is $59,018,333 higher! Does it pay to be committed to giving great service? Yup.

- What is so exciting is that when companies make the commitment to improve service delivery...residents see the difference. It is not unusual for a new client to see turnover rates drop by 6% or more their first year working with us. Their...

Oh my...what a crazy experience you had. While great customer service always pays off, I agree...it's never been more important than now...when everyone is focused on getting value...and service delivery plays a key role in the value formula.

That said, great service isn't dead everywhere. I have to take a moment and brag about our clients. The SatisFacts Index is our annual national benchmark of results from our annual surveys and Insite, our 365 day/year feedback program. Year after year the Index scores grow. More than that, most components of the Index are in the "Superior" award winning category (4.00-4.49 on a 5 point scale). As you well know, companies that are committed to great service, where it's in their DNA from top to bottom, focus a great deal of attention on all the metrics that communicate the level of service being delivered. They not only talk the talk, but walk the walk...and then monitor it all. And the beauty of this focus is in the bottom line...in terms of how we take care of who's number one...the owner of the asset. The great attention to service and retention has an enormous return:

- Per our 2011 client satisfaction survey of our own clients, they reported a resident turnover rate 17 points below the average cited in the NAA Income and Expense Survey.

- For a 5,000 unit portfolio, that means the following in terms of their performance vs. an average company: 850 fewer move-outs; at $4,166/move-out (vacancy loss, concessions, marketing and leasing costs, turn costs, etc.) this reduced turnover leads to NOI being $3,541,100 higher than a typical portfolio; using a 6 cap, this means the portfolio's value is $59,018,333 higher! Does it pay to be committed to giving great service? Yup.

- What is so exciting is that when companies make the commitment to improve service delivery...residents see the difference. It is not unusual for a new client to see turnover rates drop by 6% or more their first year working with us. Their focus and attention pays off...and everyone wins.

It's a beautiful thing...a great focus on existing residents, on service delivery, on a commitment to responsiveness and communication, on enhancing perceived value...has a great payoff because residents see and feel it, and they reward the community with their loyalty (and this means not getting one more vacant, non-income producing box that has to be turned and re-rented).

Great post!

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  Doug Miller
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Tell me about it, Doug!

And of course, I agree with you... it's not dead EVERYWHERE, but it sure feels like it sometimes. I know that at my company, The Sterling Group, it is alive and well! I'm glad to hear your clients are also hitting the mark!

Thanks for your comments, here's to both of our continued customer service success!

Tara

  Tara Furiani
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Hey Tara,

Sometimes it's not just poor customer service as much as it is a huge lack of common sense! Let me share an example.

I went to the post office to pick up our stack of vacation mail. While I was there, I decided to buy a roll of stamps. When I handed the clerk my credit card, the postal employee looked at the back of my card, which says "Please check ID". She told me that I needed to sign the back of my card. I explained that I prefer to use "Please check ID" as was recommended to me by the credit card company, and showed her my driver's license. She said she couldn't accept my credit card because that wasn't my signature, pointing to an aged, half torn piece of paper that was taped to the counter.

I asked her if I had seen a postage vending machine in the lobby, and she answered "Yes". I asked her if I could use my credit card to buy stamps in the machine in the lobby. She said "Of course". I asked her if there would be someone at the machine to check the signature line on the credit card. She said "No. It's just a machine". DUH! Complete lack of common sense!

I love the laughs I get when I tell this one at my seminars! Enjoy! Vicki

  Vicki Sharp
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Hi Vicki,

You're right... that's totally why I lead with that in the first sentence! How do you teach common sense? If we could answer this question, we'd be zillionaires

This is a great story! People, in general, truly amaze me, everyday (and not in a good way). This is a perfect example of what I mean! HA!

Thanks so much for sharing

Tara

  Tara Furiani
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

What great stories! And totally agree with Doug...has to be a holistic belief throughout a company culture to provide excellent service. I have found a lot of situations that did not start off to be a bad experience but then the "customer service agent" creates a bad customer service experience which is totally nutty! I believe that for most of us, this is a LEARNED skill. When you can provide an excellent experience for even your most difficult, loud, angry customer, you have truly become a master and you will see incredible transformations as a result. I truly remember when my approach changed and how powerful that change was. I have also seen it in employees that I have had to mentor on this subject and what happens when they finally "get it." These have definitely been the most rewarding experiences of my career. The biggest challenge is that service reps. feel justified in giving poor service when a customer is angry and confrontational. What I try to get my folks to understand is that ALL of our customers deserve good service...not just the "good, nice" ones. The customer may not always be right, but we should never make them feel as if they are wrong. Easier said than done.

  Shelley Russell
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Isn't Kohl's the store with all of the commercials about how much less frustrating their policies are compared to other stores? Maybe that just applies to their rewards points...

  ActiveBuilding
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Great post, Tara!!! Nothing like a personal experience (good or bad) review in my opinion. Congratulations to you and your husband!!! Being a mom is the most amazing thing ever!!! And as for Kohl's, I am with you on that. The only thing I buy there is a certain candle for its fragrance - I figure that is a safe purchase. Would NEVER buy clothes or anything else there. And as for Sterling, I have heard great things about your company. Congrats for that, too!

  Sandi Phillips
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Hi Sandi,

Thank you so much! We are very excited to finally be starting a family (we waited a good while). Sterling is a great company... we're doing a lot of really cool and innovative stuff, it's amazing to be on the ground floor of it! I'm so glad you've heard great things about us!

Kohl's... what can I say, they've lost me as a customer!

Tara

  Tara Furiani

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