Businesses and customers need to stop “faking it”

Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally. (MGH/UA Home Entertainment)

A friend  shared a link to a news story today that says up to 80 percent of women fake orgasms when they’re with a partner. It got me wondering, strangely enough, about how many customers are “faking it” with businesses, too. (Why the two thoughts connected in my brain is just one of those scientific phenomena for which the world may never find an answer, but I digress.)

The reality is that we, as consumers, are constantly asked to give feedback to businesses who are desperately seeking to please us so that we can’t wait to, shall I say, “share an experience” again.

According to the MSNBC story noted above, one researcher reported that, “women were making conscious vocalizations in order to influence their partner rather than as a direct expression of sexual arousal.” And don’t we do the same thing as consumers, because we’re either too shy to speak up or simply figure it will be faster and easier to fake it than to offer truthful feedback?

When you are at a restaurant and a waitress or manager stops by to ask, “How is everything?”, don’t you generally say “It’s good” and then return to the table conversation already underway?

When you receive an online survey from a company you just purchased something from, do you ever bother to click through and participate, or do you just close the pop-up box and move on?

And those 2-foot long receipts that stores print out with the special survey codes for you to enter and “Tell us how we’re doing,” — does anyone ever remember to do those when they get home?

Even if you do complete a survey, are you being honest when filling out the bubbles and do you take the time to type in additional comments?

Companies often think they are providing good customer service if they don’t hear any complaints, but that’s a huge mistake. I’m sure that guys who brag about always bringing a woman to orgasm would be shocked to hear how their partner describes the situation to her girlfriends.

And while social media venting helps, you still don’t know how all of your customers are describing their latest interaction to other people.

That’s why businesses and customers need to stop “faking it.”

From a business standpoint, the next time you contact a customer to find out if they’re satisfied, remind them that you really are in it for a long-haul relationship and, as one researched noted, “In general, honesty is the best policy.” Of course, that also means doing your part to provide the best customer experience possible, even if it means hearing that your tried-and-true technique just doesn’t cut it any more.

From a consumer standpoint, think about the feedback you’re providing to a business. If all you ever do is fake your satisfaction, you are in for a rather unsatisfying relationship — and where’s the fun in that?

Personal customer service is dead…or is it?

Guest post by Jessi Wortley

customer serviceI had a great customer service experience the other day and want to thank the company publicly for it. A great experience can’t be possible, you say? Maybe not very often, but apparently it still happens.

We all know what has become, unfortunately, the “typical” customer service experience. You encounter a problem and need assistance with a product/service/account and realize the only way you’re going to get anywhere is to call for help. And who are you going to call? Unfortunately, not Ghostbusters. You’re going to have to call the dreaded 1-800 customer service hotline. The one where you go through an endless maze of automated numbers, option prompts, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand your request,” a few choice expletives, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll reach a real person on the other end who is probably six time zones away, barely speaks English, yet refers to himself as “John.”

“John” will not actually be able to help you, and will refer you to his supervisor, who again will transfer you or better yet promise to look into it and call you back. End result: you are frustrated and usually no better off than where you were before you picked up the phone.

But not this time. I use Constant Contact to send e-mails to a group I belong to and I needed to send one Monday morning. Upon logging in, I was greeted with a message informing me that our account had been suspended because the bank card on file was no longer valid and our monthly bill could not be processed. Perfect. What a way to start my day, and I decided to vent via Twitter: “Everyone’s having Internet issues today. Blocked sites, e-mail down, Constant Contact inaccessible…it’s just another typical Monday!”

After making a few phone calls to our other board members, it was determined  the bank had canceled our card and issued us a new one but, a) didn’t inform us and b) never actually sent the new card. A call to the bank only resulted in them saying they would immediately send a new one, but it wouldn’t be here for five to seven days — not what I wanted to hear. So, anticipating the worst, I decided to bite the bullet and call Constant Contact, beg for mercy and have them sign us up for direct debit to avoid this in the future.

Boy was I ever surprised! I called the 800 number and listened to a short list of prompts, pushed 3 for billing and after a few seconds was connected to a live person who spoke perfect English! I explained the situation and asked about direct debit. Unfortunately, that was not an option. However, the customer service representative pulled up our file and in less than a minute told me she’d put an override on our account valid for one week until our new card arrived. I couldn’t believe it! She not only went out of her way to make sure I could access my account, but she didn’t even have to check with a supervisor to do so.

It’s not often you find a company that has empowered its employees to take the initiative themselves to go above and beyond. I was very impressed and an extremely satisfied customer to boot. But, the story isn’t really done there. After hanging up the phone, I realized I had a message on Twitter from Constant Contact (@CTCTHelp) saying “Apologies for any inconveneince (sic). Send us a tweet or call 866-289-2101 if you need any help.” They’d seen my tweet and contacted me. Again, I was very impressed. It felt good being able to write back and say thanks for the offer, but my problem was already solved by one of their great customer service representatives.

I guess personal customer service isn’t totally dead yet. It might be on life support, but maybe with the advent of Twitter and other immediate connectivity options we can revive it. What do you think? Are there other positive stories out there, or was mine an isolated incident?

Jessi Wortley is a communications professional in Lansing, Michigan. You can offer her great customer service via Twitter at @minij.

(Cartoon courtesy of Shafeen Charania and his blog Synthesis.)

Now on sale at WalMart: customer service

I know WalMart has a bad reputation with a lot of people but I don’t care. You can’t beat their prices and I’m usually satisfied with their customer service.

Recently, however, I had a bad experience at a local WalMart store while trying to get a price adjustment for a product that had dropped $20 soon after I bought it. I had a run-in with an associate who tried to be helpful but wasn’t trained properly and her supervisor who was trained but not interested in being helpful.

So I went to WalMart’s web site where you can contact them. I sent a rather scathing note with my complaints outlined.

It took a few days before I heard anything, which, honestly, is better than the stupid auto-reply emails most corporations send you. When I did hear something, it was from “Steve at WalMart” who called my house during the day when I wasn’t home because I was out working so I could afford to buy things, at WalMart and elsewhere. Anyway, after a couple of days of voicemails, I didn’t hear from Steve again — until yesterday.

Steve sent a great customer-service letter telling me how sorry he was about what happened and that he decided to write after not being able to reach me via phone. He also enclosed a money order that took care of my price adjustment. It turns out Steve is the local store manager.

So, WalMart’s online system worked. The complaint was routed to the local manager who was empowered to address the situation, and he did.

See, Corporate America? Customer service isn’t that hard and even when there’s a screw-up, you can still make amends with good service to keep a customer.

Steve’s best comments in the letter are something that all managers in every company should learn from:

“I teach my supervisors that they are empowered to make decisions to the benefit of our customers. Obviously, there are limits to what we can do. However, in this situation, common sense should have prevailed.”

I’ll be sending Steve a thank you note. Customer service is about gratitude for someone’s business — and receiving good customer service these days deserves some gratitude as well.