Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Telephone Love - But where is the Customer Love?



I hate business-related calls where the caller just starts prattling about what he wants, without taking a breath and worse, without identifying himself. So you want the key to the mansion and I should just give it to you despite the fact that I do not know who on earth you are or where you're calling from. It's a peeve - right up there with bad spelling and grammar.

Is it really that difficult to start a phone call the proper way?

"Hello. This is Barack Obama, calling from the White House. I am trying to reach Ms Trini Darlin."

Isn't that a whole lot better than...

"Hello. I want to get some information on blah blah blah blah blappity blah blah blah blah prattle prattle prattle."

Cause that is what I hear when you start going a mile a minute without introducing yourself. And then I have to take a breath and try my best not to sound annoyed and instead to sound sickeningly sweet and accomodating.

And to whom am I speaking?

I swear, we have come such a long way with technology but the simplest things we overlook. Simple courtesies. There are some people who call who can really test your sanity though and can go on and on while you sit and bear it. I once sat through a 32minute phone call (yes, I timed it) while the gentleman voiced his frustration with an issue, that had nothing to do with me. Sometimes we have to play the role of priest and let customers or clients give confession. It takes patience, it takes tolerance, it takes a strong spirit.

And with all the new gadgets available now though, it can often be a come-to-Jesus type experience when dealing with some businesses. Service industries (my special favourite) are notorious for their horror stories. I went to a store once, picked up what I needed and made my way to the cashier. There she was - on the phone. She could not be bothered that I, the customer, was standing there waiting patiently for her to ring up my items. She looked at me, and without batting a false eyelash, continued yapping it up on the phone. If it were a call related to business, I may have been a bit more tolerant, but it was clear she was talking to a girlfriend and she did not even make an attempt to end the call. I finally placed everything I had picked up on the counter in front of her and walked out. She then tells her friend to hold and has the audacity to ask me if I am going to come back. She had to have been joking to think I would come back after she clearly sent me a loud and clear message that her personal phone call about some party or some man was more important than running a business and building a customer base. And most importantly, her personal telephone call was just ridiculously more important than I was.

And I have seen staff doing the following when dealing with or ignoring a customer as the case may be

- Texting
- Playing games on the phone
- Browsing the internet
- Downloading ringtones using Bluetooth and a friend's phone
--Listening to music

Really?

It is sadly understood that customer service in Trinidad is horrendous and though this has been described as a "cultural" thing, I don't believe we are a rude people. We are friendly and hospitable everywhere else, so why can't we tranlsate this to business? There is clearly a market for trainers to host seminars for employers to properly train their employees about the power of the smile and etiquette. Looking for a job, anyone? lol.

Unless it is a life or death call or email, when dealing with a client or customer, ideally the phone should remain unanswered. What ever happened to the customer comes first? Yes, the technology makes us accessible and brings information to our fingertips, but is it worth it to ruin a business? Basically that is what improper use of these devices do - when used improperly and at the most inappropriate times, they are like cannonballs in the fabric of prosperity and good reputation. Just watch those dollar bills burn to a crisp.


At my very first job after university, in the financial services industry, we were forbidden from keeping our cellphones on during the 8am - 4.30pm period. And there was hardly ever a person whose phone rang during the work day because the culture of the organisation was strongly grounded in good customer service and it was just understood - no cellphones. I don't think all employers should have to go the route of banning personal devices at the office, but it says something about how important they view their brand and how they view their employees as brand ambassadors. If they don't bring their staff into the game, chances are they will lose it.

5 comments:

Well darling I have some funny ones to share with you.
I remember that back when we ran La Terrazza out of the golf clid at Tobago Plantations we took on lots of staff and I was shocked that I had to tell them that during service they should have thier cellphones turned off. This was caused by the fact that while serving a steamy hot plate of pasta to a guest (and if I did not see this with my own eyes I may not have believed it) my girl answers her phone holding it in place with her shoulder carrying on her conversation while serving the guest, AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!When spoken to about it she really seemed to be struggling to understand what my problem was.
From the following day all cellphones were to be handed in to me when they arrived to work. These were not children. These women ranged from 18 to 30 years old. I also had a 56 year old man whose phone I did not take away( one would think that at 56 he would get it). One night restaurant full I hear ring ring and I say to myself, 'Peolpe should know to take off their phones when they sit down to dinner' only to realize that it was this 56 year old man who was serving tables with is cell on and in his pocket.

I think it is a lack of social education. There are many people who will read this and not get it and wonder who I think I am taking away peoples cellphone etc.

The best is calling companies for information. 'Hello I am Kisha Monti and I would like to etc etc' and the reply "Eh, wah she say, (screaming into the background) some lady here on de phone she want something come an talk to she nah' No kidding. I think they find the biggest idiot in the business and they say 'Hey you sit by the phone'

And well on shop girls. I think over the years I have learnt where to shop. I tend to go to stores where the owners are around, so I rarely have to deal with shop girls or go to shops where they work on commission so they are more spritely.

The best shop girl story is one in a shop in Scarborough Tobago where I entered the store saying good morning (the shop girl of the phone did not even stop the call to look up and respond) Then when I picked up a few things she says to her friend 'well it look like this one dont want to go, let me see if I could get rid of her' Only because I used to be always busy and had no time to make a point that I spent my almost $1000. in that store. Sometimes it makes no sense trying to make a point cause its you that needs to then absorb more stress.

The truth is that walking out the store doesnt change a thing because even if the rude girl is fired by her boss, there would be a line of other socially inept replacements.

The thing is, they don't get fired. We have come to accept this type of bad behaviour and this is why it is so pervasive. I remember going out with some of our mutual friends, who shall remain nameless, and the service we got at this restaurant was deplorable. Absolutely ridiculous. The waitress even cussed me under her breath. And when I opened my mouth to tell her something, everyone else at the table stayed quiet and looked at me as though I was some kinda bacchanalist. But I cannot tolerate bad customer service and yes, you are right, it is a lack of social education. Grown people should not have to be told that texting or talking on the phone while dealing with a customer or client is rude. You should just know that.

I hear you on the point about people just rattling off their problems... but put yourself in their shoes. I have called TSTT and Flow and have had to wait up to 1 hour... (ONE HOUR!!!) to get service. In fact on average, before the Indians, an average waiting period when calling TSTT would be about 20-25 minutes, before getting through to an agent. At this point, you can't really blame the person if they just delve straight into their problem without the usual pleasantries.

Further, if I am calling somewhere to get info on something, like a new service, why should I identify myself? I want to find out about your new promotion- perhaps if your website/other public relations machinery was more useful, I wouldn't be calling,... maybe there is one aspect i need clarification on... (what do you mean by unlimited e.g.) why do you need to know my name for that? I do try to begin with a good morning/afternoon/night though, and if i caught the name of the rep (which is usually mumbled so quickly that Jonathon can sound like Jane) i incorporate it into my greeting.

For some reason though, it is deemed acceptable for Customer Service in Trinidad to be the pits... last night i went to a sport bar/restaurant to get a specific salad... i had to wait 45 minutes before the waitress came to see what I wanted. when I ordered my drink (diet coke) and asked for the menu, it took a further 10 minutes and a complaint to the floor manager to get them... the excuse was that the waitress didn't know I was not getting through... Obviously I did not eat there, but I think the significance of that was lost on the waitress...

Cellphones at work are also tricky... clearly you should not be using them when dealing with customers/clients, but sometimes there may be a real emergency... striking the balance is what is needed... unfortunately, that is where we seem to fall down.

I will say that I have been to several places in T & T where the service has been immaculate, so all is not lost.

I hear you on the prattling and agree that with some service companies, the giving a name thing is like rubbing salt in the wound. I guess I meant from my experience where I am not in customer service but I take calls about people asking for certain things, maybe about people's contact info for example, which may not always be info we may want to share and you just start prattling. lol. You could be anybody. A good morning would be nice.

And yes, some customer service here is awesome. I always tell people Hyatt is probably among the best and it just underlines that we CAN do it but like we like the big stick over us to do so.

I agree 100%. In my last professional manifestation, I also got calls from people trying to get VERY sensitive info. Many times I would get the call from a person who wanted info on a matter and as you say would rush right in... To make it worse, sometimes, they would not want to identify themselves, at which point I would "politely" decline to give them the info if they quarreled, i would give them my boss's contact info and advise them how to lodge a complaint against me.

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