• The customer is always right, even if he’s wrong

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    Reylito A.H. Elbo

    Reylito A.H. Elbo

    THERE is no doubt that maximizing customer satisfaction is easy if an organization is overly conscious and proactive in doing that “little extra” service without necessarily spending money to make it happen. After all, that’s what makes an ordinary service become extra-ordinary. Recently, in one of my hobbies as a telephone and on-line shopper, I stumbled on at least three situations that make you think that customer service in this country is very far from ideal.

    Most of the time, sales people at the other end of the line would make you feel like you’re one rung higher than a dog’s poo.

    I was canvassing for the best possible executive bus shuttle service for my clients attending our benchmarking factory tour in Laguna. Of course, I can ask my staff to do this for me, but I like doing my usual gemba (shop floor) walk so that I can learn many things on the ground.

    I checked the Internet for some leads. Yes, I know. I don’t use the colored directory pages, anymore.

    Company ABC: “I’m sorry, Sir. But we don’t handle that type of service in this branch. Please call Miss Jessica Rabbit of our Makati office. She can tell you more about your queries.”

    Me: “I’m a customer. Why don’t you request Miss Rabbit to call me as soon as she’s finished eating her carrot…”

    There was a 10-second silence appropriate only for the dead.

    His meek reply was a bit reluctant: “OK, Sir.”

    It’s been two weeks, three days, 19 hours, and 23 minutes since then. And still no call from Miss Rabbit.

    Company DEF: “Good morning, Sir! This is Pearl. May I help you?”

    I told her of my requirements for an executive shuttle service.

    “Yes, we’ve that as a major service. May I have your contact details so that we can send you a proposal? You may have to wait after one week as our sales manager is on leave.”

    My reply was swift and succinct: “Why can’t someone send me a proposal right away, even in the absence of the indispensable sales manager?”

    Company GHI: This firm appears to be the best in the industry as it services tourists and high-rollers in many high-class casinos in Parañaque.

    “May I have a good look at your units?”

    The sales manager was accommodating. “Yes, Sir…our units are parked in our garage at the Mall of Asia.”

    I liked what I saw and immediately signed the contract and paid the rental fee in full, even as they were asking only for a down payment.

    After two days, I inquired on the name of the driver, his mobile phone, and the bus plate number as required by the two factories we’ll be visiting.

    The sales manager replied to my email, without any salutary greeting accorded to a usual sales prospect, with a money bag on his side:

    “You can contact our despatcher at the following numbers…”

    I mildly reprimand: “I’m the customer. Please make it easy for me. I’ve already signed the contract and paid the rental in full. Do you mind extending a little extra effort on this? The despatcher is seated near your table. And so, why do I have to call him for that?”

    I’ve long been educated on the Japanese way of serving customers. And I must tell you, we are thousands of kilometers away from Japan in terms of maximizing customer satisfaction. I’ve tested this proposition hundreds of times and the result is always the same.

    If a Japanese customer representative can’t properly handle your sales call or related inquiries, you can immediately feel the sincerity. Everyone would show a grieving face, complete with teary eyes, bowing almost endlessly, while he escorts you out of the store’s facade. His frustration can be felt miles away that you’ll be concerned he would throw himself out in the direction of a speeding bullet train sooner than you can say, “Don’t worry about it.”

    Anyway, there are some exceptional customer service providers that you can still find in this country. But you must prepare to pay good money. So, let me just close by saying that although I’ve made some fun of my experience with those three companies, I really do feel in all sincerity that shopping can give you many ideas on how to catch a snake in a bag full of slimy eel.

    Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing on human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter for his random management thoughts.

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