You’re out walking around, maybe at the mall or maybe the grocery store. A couple of people walk by talking about an Italian restaurant. “It has THE BEST spaghetti EVER!” Your ears perk up. Spaghetti? You love spaghetti. “The sauce is AMAZING!” Oooh - a good, thick, rich sauce. You’re getting hungry. “And the tiramisu? Get TWO!”
You’re sold. A few days later you head out for what is going to be the most amazing spaghetti dinner you’ve ever had.
But - it’s not.
When I was in my early 20s, living in cheap apartments with used furniture, I would buy things based on my ability to afford them. For example, my coffee maker probably cost $20 tops. It had an on/off button and it made hot coffee. I could afford it and I was happy enough with the coffee it made.
When the coffee maker broke, as it inevitably would after a year or so, I would just chalk it up to it “being cheap” and I’d throw it away, by a new cheap one, and life would go on. I didn’t think much about the company that made it or calling for support to fix it.
Now that I’m older, I can afford better quality items for my household. I don’t set out to spend more money. (I like to keep my money, actually!) But sometimes, after doing a lot of recon on a product I need, it turns out that I might spend a larger chunk of money than in my younger days.
The problem is, when something more expensive breaks, I don’t react the same way. When you invest in something you believe to be of quality, you have expectations of being able to use that thing for a long time. And when something breaks, whether it’s a product or a system or a service, you have an even greater expectation that the company is going to help you out in your time of need.
Lately, I’ve noticed a crummy trend. Customer service has stopped serving customers. In the span of about three weeks, I’ve experienced the following:
Why isn’t customer service proactive in solving a problem? Why do people have to get angry and write scathing reviews or letters to a company in order for said company to help the people that keep them in business? (And why do some companies have warranties that cover nothing??!?!)
When everything else falls away, service is all we have left. Service is what keeps us coming back. Service is what makes me recommend one business over another. Service is what keeps my business running.
Anyone can put a product on a shelf and put a price tag on it. It’s the customer service we receive that makes us customers, again and again and again.
I struggle as to where I should start this little adventure. And exactly what the moral of the story is. Because there are many. (Both starts and morals!)
I am the mother of a 16 year-old. (And that, right there, should be the beginning and the end of this tale, right?)
A few years ago we purchased, for Christmas, a laptop for said teenager. Nothing fancy, nothing expensive. It was a means to do homework. But, as kids get older, they tend to want fancier, more expensive items to keep up with their friends (especially for gaming). We let our son know that if he was going to get anything fancier, he’d have to pay for it himself.
So, money was saved slowly. Odd jobs, gifts, etc.
And then, through the gaggle of teenage friends I like to call his “Think Tank” my son decided it was better (and cheaper) to build a computer rather than buy one already put together. He assured me that all his friends did it. He assured me that he knew what he was doing. He assured me that this would be so much better. He assured me that this would be so much cheaper.
Thus, it began.
Trip One: 50 Miles round trip, 2 hours of time
We drove to “the” computer store where they assisted my son with the proper build, and actually got his price down $150 cheaper than what he built. All parts were purchased.
At home, to deaf ears, I stated: Clean up your work area. Organize everything. Do things methodically. Ensure that everything works. Ensure that everything is correct.
By that evening I was informed that my son purchased the wrong motherboard, and it wouldn’t fit in the case. Because he had already opened the motherboard and started messing around, we decided to replace the case.
Trip Two: 50 miles round trip, 1h 15m of time
Two days later (because I refused to go back again over the weekend), we went back and exchanged the case.
Then came the complaining. This wasn’t working. This part didn’t go in the right way. It’s “supposed to go in here.” The case is wrong. (After he had already bent some of the casing out of the way to get the graphics card to work.)
Finally, all the pieces were in. It doesn’t power on. More complaining. (Insert 2h of parental time helping to troubleshoot). I chat with the computer store support. I call live support with my son and troubleshoot some more. Maybe it’s a bad power supply.
Trip Three: 50 miles round trip, 1h 30m of time
We bring the tower to the store, pay for a diagnostic. We have to leave it there. Which means, of course, another trip back.
Later that evening, I get a message from the tech guy. I won’t bore you with the details. Let’s just say he told me “85% of it was hooked up incorrectly.” Oh, and we should replace the “broken” case, too.
(Insert moment where my blood pressure soars.)
Trip Four: 50 miles round trip, 1h 30m of time
We pick up the tower and come home. No, wait. We get in the car, and on the way there, I began my lecture on how (a) you learn everything you can before you start - especially when it’s doing something costly like this, (b) your friends don’t know anything, (c) sometimes you have to invest your money in getting help in the beginning, so that you don’t end up spending extra money later on.
And I’m sure there were a few other lessons I laid out, too.
We returned home, and everything was set out on the table where I would be able to monitor what was going on.
(Insert massive thank you to the tech guy who fixed all connectivity/build issues while doing the diagnostic.)
Trip Five: 10 miles round trip, 30m of time
Guess who didn’t buy a motherboard with WiFi? Out to the big box store to buy an adapter.
When you calculate all of the money and time spent, the “affordable” $750 computer build ended up costing around $1100.
The Moral of the Story
Get help. Get help. Get help. You don’t have to, shouldn’t have to, and don’t need to do everything on your own. There are people out there who are AWESOME at things, and they will help you. Pay them to help you. It is COMPLETELY worth the investment.
Last week we talked about my journey to purchase a new vehicle. Here’s the continuing saga.
A salesperson from a dealership responded to my email. Finally! Let’s call him Bob. Bob responded quickly, and suggested a possible vehicle. I replied back, told him I’d like to learn more, and we set up a time for me to come to the dealership and chat.
I was feeling pretty good about it. Someone had finally responded. That first part of the sale had begun - acknowledgement.
I arrived at my appointment time, checked in, and someone went to get Bob while I made myself a cup of coffee. A few minutes later Bob approached me and introduced himself. I put out my hand for a shake. (Shaken!)
Bob apologized to me, stating that something came up and he wouldn’t be able to talk with me, however, he had brought over “Jerry” who, Bob explained, had been there as long as he had, and knew everything, etc. etc.
I said hello, extended my hand out for a shake, but Jerry was already off and running back to his desk. (Unshaken!!)
We sit, and Jerry tells me Bob gave him my info, and asked me what I was looking for. I explained it again. He clicked a lot on his computer, printed up two pieces of paper with two different vehicles that I had mentioned, and said I couldn’t get the deal I wanted (hinged on a monthly payment amount I was setting a limit at).
And that was it. I sat there for a moment, and then said, “Well, I guess I’ll keep looking.”
I left. Angry. Frustrated. No - angry.
Look, I cannot stand pushy sales tactics. I have walked out of stores because of it and have never returned. But - isn’t your job to SELL to me?
Let’s break down things that went wrong.
At NO time did Jerry take me to look at any of the vehicles I was interested in. Show me the product. Get me more interested in it.
At NO time did Jerry provide other vehicle suggestions. “I know you’ve been looking at X, but have you considered Y. It can meet your requirements and still get you the price point you want to be at.” Maybe there are options I don’t know about.
At NO time did Jerry put in any effort to try to get me into the vehicle I wanted. He didn’t show me how different down payments would change the monthly payment. He didn’t talk to me about the different vehicle packages and how, if I went to a different package and maybe added an extra thousand for the down payment, I could be close to the monthly payment I want. Show me the different ways I can potentially get the vehicle I want.
The whole “sales conversation” took about 15 minutes. And most of it was Jerry typing things into a computer.
No one wants to have a sales pitch shoved down his throat, but I think everyone wants to be offered all possible information and options. Had Jerry actually been a proper salesman, I might have walked out of there with a new vehicle.
But, I didn’t. I’m still searching - now more for the right salesperson than the right vehicle.
There is a really good chain, “nicer” fast food restaurant just down the road from us, and they make a tasty burger. When the craving hits, we head over and grab some greasy goodness.
My son is specific about his burger. Very specific.
Ketchup - yes. Mustard - yes. Pickles - yes. Cheese - of course! Bacon - when the mood strikes.
But, please - NO ONIONS.
It’s really a simple request. Because each time you place your order, the person at the counter says “Do you want everything on that?” And each time my son says, NO ONIONS.
The first time he ordered a bacon cheeseburger, NO ONIONS.
He got a cheeseburger, with onions, no bacon.
Subsequent orders had the bacon - and onions. Last week he and I went - ordered inside, and again, the girl at the counter asked “do you want everything on that?” And he said, clear as day - NO ONIONS.
He got onions.
If I had to estimate, I’d say 95% of the time he orders, he gets onions.
But, you know what really bothers me? We keep going back.
We really shouldn’t. We are not getting the service we want. We are not getting what we ordered, what we expected. So why do we keep going back? Why do we keep spending money on something that’s not working?
Is it because it’s easy? Convenient? Because we don’t think it’s important?
It is important, though. We have certain expectations when we hire someone to perform a service. And when that service we order isn’t what’s delivered, we expect someone to correct the problem. If the problem doesn’t get corrected, why would we keep hiring that person?
(You see what I’m getting at, right?)
What are you spending your money on that you’re not getting what you paid for? Software? A coach? A virtual assistant? (wink, wink!) Maybe it’s time to get out of the easy/convenient comfort zone and reach out to find someone who’s going to provide you with great service 100% of the time.
Unless you’re okay picking the onions off your burger all the time.
28+ years of business experience. 15+ years of virtual experience.