Saving is more than investing, it’s about Word of Mouth

In the last month, guest bloggers from around the world share their good, bad, or ugly customer service experiences. It’s been a place to complain, rant, and highlight opportunities for companies to improve. But, this series has also been a place to celebrate when companies do well, processes work effectively, service representatives are our advocates, and we leave a situation as stronger believers in the product or service than we started.  I hope you’ve enjoyed these stories as  much as I have! 

The lovely Kristina!

The lovely Kristina!

Today’s blog post comes from the land down under. Kristina and her husband Jeff moved to Australia several years ago and are one of the reasons for our travel adventure inspiration.  There’s a lot reasons why she’s a fave but her passion for reading and love for her kindle are a few top reasons…oh and she’s one of the sweetest people I know! 

First a bit of backstory about me. I am a loyal bank goer since before I can remember.

I was set up with a kids saving account at Bank of America for my college fund. Years later when my dad started to work at Boeing and became part of Boeing Employees Credit Union, I too started an account with them (my Bank of America savings account still in tow) for checking, saving and car loan.

After finishing college my BofA account was no longer needed as the funds were depleted but in turn I got one of their Alaska air miles Credit Cards so I could put all of our wedding expenses on there and get miles.

I never thought I would leave BofA or BECU as they have always been great to me and very helpful. But then the Big Move happened. We were moving overseas and both companies did not have branches overseas. Then started my search for a new company. I knew we would open accounts down here in Australia but I was loyal and wanted to stay with my companies.

After much talk, I continued our stay with BECU as they continued to allow us to keep our account even though there wouldn’t be much activity and we will still get/receive all our loyalty rewards. BECU was so helpful and accommodating I knew that we had made the right choice to stay with them. But when it came to our credit card with BofA we weren’t so lucky. So we started shopping around for a new credit card. I wanted a card that I could get miles for (as we would be travelling even more now), didn’t have a huge yearly fee and would work with us that we were living overseas for the time being. I fell upon Capital One. Now at first I wasn’t too sure about this company as all I could remember or think of for this company was their Viking commercials which concerned me a bit. But after so much needed research I decided to go with them as their fee was less than what I was paying with BofA, their air miles went to any airline (I wasn’t just locked into one airline), they were so accommodating of us being overseas, they have no international transaction fees (so even when we travel we can use the card and not get charged extra fees) and how cool is it that I could put whatever picture I wanted on there:

Photo Credit: Kristina Gutherie

Photo Credit: Kristina Gutherie

Ok that was a lot of rambling but I wanted to give you some back story before I shared my great customer service story.

As I said before Capital One has been excellent about us being overseas. They have always been helpful when it comes to weird charges and such and always willing to have me call collect or even call me back so I don’t have to pay the international calling fees (I just use Skype though so there is no worries there but it’s nice to know that service is available).

I always pay my bill on time (even early in most cases). But this month our internet went down for about a week (now you don’t really understand how much you use/need internet until your internet has went down but in any case it was done) and it was right during the time when our bill was due. So when our internet came back up I got on to do all of our banking and realized I had missed our due date (this has never happened but alas it did). I was getting ready to just suck it up and pay the fee as I knew it was our fault for being late.

I was talking to my husband and he said ‘just give them a call and let them know the situation and see if there is anything they can do.’ I highly doubted that they would do anything, as most places would say that we need to pay on time and not make excuses. So I called them, still thinking that I would have to pay the fee but wanted to ask anyways. Expecting to be on hold for awhile, I was shocked when someone answered the phone within a minute (points in my book) and it was a real person not a computer (another point). I then explained to her (I have forgotten her name unfortunately, as she was awesome) the situation: our internet was down and I missed paying our bill on time but was there anything they could do. First off, she was so understanding about having our internet go down and seemed genuinely empathic. She then said she could look into for me if I could give her a few details. I did and within seconds she was telling me that she would gladly reverse the charge and I should see it in one to two days on my statement. I was off the phone with the situation resolved in less than 10 minutes, that’s unheard of! She was so helpful and understanding it made me realize another reason why I am so thankful I changed to them.

I have recommended Capital One to so many people over the last three years and I will continue to share their amazing company with as many people as I can. I can’t say enough good things about a company that is so understanding, helpful , accommodating, and downright a joy to work with.

Thanks for following this month’s customer service blog series. I hope you’ve enjoyed these bloggers stories, experiences, and hopes as much as I have. Has there been a particular story that has resonated with you? Would you respond differently if you were in their shoes?  The one consistency I see in all these experiences, regardless of the #goodbadugly, is the customer’s initiative to respond and take action.  By doing so, you’re paving the way for companies to reinforce positive behavior or identify areas to improve.

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There’s no exchange of moolah behind these blog pages, pro-deals, or freebies with this series. What you see is what you get; real stories from real people who are sharing their experiences to challenge the status quo, inspire companies to take action, and ultimately build a life long customer. Be sure to check back this week!

July 30: Sometimes $20 makes all the difference by Meeka Kullberg

July 28: Changing the world one white mocha at a time by Stacy Wong

July 18: A Stranger in a Strange Land by Sandra Boedecker

July 15: I have renamed my WiFi network “TimeWarnerisHorrible” by Chris Miller

July 13: Our love affair with the world’s most hated airline by Kayla Robertson

July 12: Treat others how you would want to be treated. by Kristin

July 10: Where’s the Line? by Kristin McGunnigle

July 8: Do customers dream of electric sheep? by Stephen Ellis

July 5: Nike earns an A+ by Jackie Ostlie

July 3: How to Please the Queen by Katrina Taylor

July 1: Are you kidding me? by Evelyn Wolf

Sometimes $20 makes all the difference

In the last month, guest bloggers from around the world share their good, bad, or ugly customer service experiences. It’s been a place to complain, rant, and highlight opportunities for companies to improve. But, this series has also been a place to celebrate when companies do well, processes work effectively, service representatives are our advocates, and we leave a situation as stronger believers in the product or service than we started.  I hope you’ve enjoyed these stories as  much as I have! 
My bestie and "third" sister.

My bestie and “third” sister.

Today’s post comes from Oregon and my best friend Meeka. She’s one of the funniest writers I know and I can always depend on her for her honesty, humor, support, and transparency. Meeka’s the mother of two beautiful boys and shares her adventures, mishaps, and daily life on her blog, Surprised by Joy

 

I’m not a big bargain hunter. As a mom of two little boys, I find a lot of my time {and money} dedicated to them, versus shopping for the best deal. And I’ll admit, sometimes, I see a small mistake on the receipt or a missed deal and I just let it go, because though it might cost me a couple dollars, seriously, the time spent explaining, haggling and waiting for the fix, while also wrangling my kids? Depending on the day, that might just cost me my sanity.

I should probably just build that into my budget.

This is why company customer service attributes that impress me as a consumer usually have to do with response time and accessibility.

Customer service line waits longer than five minutes? Or I can’t call you? There’s no email? No online chat? No response to the online chat? Done, man. I probably won’t be back. Because there are just too many companies that are ready and available.

And even if I do have to pay a few dollars more, well, as mentioned above, a few dollars is nothing compared to the fact that my kids just disassembled my washing machine while I was sitting on hold.

Which is why a recent interaction with home furnishings giant Williams-Sonoma hooked me as a loyal return customer, and it only cost them $20.

My in-laws had gifted me a generous $150 gift card to Williams-Sonoma and after looking around a bit, I’d decided to use some of it on a Cuisinart Griddler. It was already on sale for $70 when I ordered it. After I clicked purchase, I sort of forgot about it. That is, until I got an email three days later that they were now having a “20 percent off electrics” sale. Of course they were. And on the day my now overpriced griddler was set to arrive.

Photo Credi: William Sonoma

Photo Credi: William Sonoma

I opened the box and it was great {a panini maker and a griddle all in one!}, but the situation kept gnawing at me, I mean, seriously, if I’d only waited, I would have had $20 extra dollars to spend! So I decided to give them a call. I mean, it never hurts to ask, right?

While looking for the customer service number, I found a handy internet chat icon. Have you ever used those? I’ve had minimal success with them. The lag time {if they answer} can be really atrocious and in general, I find people are nicer on the phone than on the internet {as we all know from reading YouTube comments}.

But I thought I’d give it a try, and imagine my surprise, when right away, a nice customer service representative named “Justin” popped up. I explained my issue and after a few moments, he came back on and explained that though they do price adjustments for a

certain period of time after purchase, they do not honor email code promotions after the fact.

I have to admit, I wasn’t surprised. But I was disappointed. And a little annoyed.

Williams-Sonoma is high end and it’s not like their prices are the best around. In fact, if I didn’t have the gift card, I probably wouldn’t even have been on their site in the first place. However, that’s when Justin’s chat box popped up with the second half of his response. He went on to say that although they don’t usually honor email code promotions, for this time only, they were willing to and would be sending me a gift card in the mail for the refunded $20.

Well, let me tell you, that totally made my day. Williams-Sonoma is a billion dollar company, but the fact that they enable their employees to be generous with consumers over such a small amount, absolutely won my heart.

As my husband said, “Of course they did, what can you buy at Williams-Sonoma for 20 dollars? They just garnered themselves another way to get you to spend more money there.” And yes, he’s absolutely right. But I will happily be back and I’ll tell all my friends, because even though they are a large and often expensive store, they still treat their customers with respect.

And I have the $20 to show for it.

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There’s no exchange of moolah behind these blog pages, pro-deals, or freebies with this series. What you see is what you get; real stories from real people who are sharing their experiences to challenge the status quo, inspire companies to take action, and ultimately build a life long customer. Be sure to check back this week!

July 28: Changing the world one white mocha at a time by Stacy Wong

July 18: A Stranger in a Strange Land by Sandra Boedecker

July 15: I have renamed my WiFi network “TimeWarnerisHorrible” by Chris Miller

July 13: Our love affair with the world’s most hated airline by Kayla Robertson

July 12: Treat others how you would want to be treated. by Kristin

July 10: Where’s the Line? by Kristin McGunnigle

July 8: Do customers dream of electric sheep? by Stephen Ellis

July 5: Nike earns an A+ by Jackie Ostlie

July 3: How to Please the Queen by Katrina Taylor

July 1: Are you kidding me? by Evelyn Wolf

A Stranger in a Strange Land

Companies should be treating their customers with the best care and experience, regardless of if you’ve got the budget the size of Nordstrom or REI. It will pay off in the short and long term for all parties involved. We’ll be your biggest advocate or your worst enemy. Need proof? Check out the lesson learned from FTD Flowers, Time Warner Cable, Blog Hosting Company, and Ryanir. Over the course of the month, you’ll read posts from fellow guest bloggers from around the world sharing their good, bad, or ugly customer service experiences…all of them very real. 
Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

The trendiest multi-tasker I know.

Today’s post comes from China (and the U.S.). Sandra is a dear friend, amazing editor/word-smith, and quite possibly more of my twin than my own sister.  Interests, fears, passions, pet-peeves, need for order and planning, you-name-it we’re pretty much identical. Even our husbands are alike in so many ways! But that’s a completely different blog post.  Read on about Sandra and her husband’s adventures while living abroad. How would you respond if you were in their shoes?  

As Americans it’s easy to forget that not every country has the same standards of customer service that we’ve come to expect as a constitutional right.

As a traveler, it’s good to remind yourself of that fact before you start banging your head on a brick wall … or the Great Wall, as the case may be.

Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

“The Great Wall of China.” Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

My husband has spent quite a bit of time in China for work over the past few years and I’ve been able to join him for some of it, thanks to a stellar boss and work team, the wonders of Skype and Dropbox, and the not-insignificant-advantage of working ahead several time zones. And while it goes without saying that success in navigating everyday life in China is dramatically affected by the quality of your Mandarin skills, we’ve had two experiences that offer lessons about customer service that hold true anywhere in the world—regardless of what language you speak.

Case study #1: China Southern Airlines

A couple of years ago we were flying from Shenzhen (near Hong Kong) to London via Beijing for a highly anticipated vacation. My unease began when we pushed away from the gate … and sat there for two hours.

I should explain that in China the plane will always push back even if the pilot knows with 100 percent certainty that he won’t be taking off anytime soon. After all, someone else needs the gate—there’s a billion other people waiting, right?

My worst fears were realized when we arrived in Beijing well after our connecting flight was scheduled to leave. As it transpired, that flight had been cancelled along with 400 others that day; we could immediately see that the “bad weather” being blamed for our delay was nothing more than stupendously bad pollution—as in, hazardous-to-your-health, looks-like-a-nuclear-winter, keep-the-elderly-and-babies-inside. We were going to have to stay the night.

Were there organized, efficient airline employees to meet us, take us to transportation that would whisk us to comfortable accommodations, and greet us the next morning to guide us to our rescheduled flight? Like how it worked for Todd when a Northwest Airlines flight arrived late in Japan due to a mechanical?

Um … no. No, there were not.

There were plenty of airline employees around. It was just that none of them seemed capable or desirous of offering any type of assistance. With every staff person we asked, we were repeatedly directed (vaguely) elsewhere, eventually joining ourselves to a frenzied, milling crowd at a ticketing counter and finally rushing to join a group of people who were getting on a bus to a hotel (feeling fairly certain that had we not, we would have been sleeping on the floor of the airport).

You could just see in the employees’ faces that they didn’t give a rat’s left butt cheek.

Fortunately things changed the next day when we returned to the airport and found the right person. After the requisite “strategic positioning” in line (fail to assert yourself and you will get NOWHERE in China), my unfailingly polite husband differentiated himself from the crowds of shouting Chinese by speaking calmly to the ticketing agent, expressing his appreciation for her efforts, and commiserating with her situation. Voila—a coveted spot on the standby list.

Of course, we almost missed our chance at that day’s flight because we weren’t warned more than two minutes in advance that we needed to run for the tram or the plane was going to leave without us. But that’s China for you.

 Moral: Be nice, and you might move ahead of the hordes.

Case study #2: Specialized Bicycles

Being something of a mountain biking fanatic, Todd decided to buy a bike in China to keep at least some of his sanity and physical conditioning.

 

Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

A ‘clean’ Todd. Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

 

While he is far from the local Specialized shop’s biggest-spending customer, their service is nothing short of jaw-dropping. The easygoing proprietor, Shark (note: Chinese people choose their own English names, sometimes with humorous results) will gladly:

  • Completely clean and detail a mud-splattered bike for next to nothing—even when it’s a different bike that Todd later brought from home (fanatics must have options …).

    Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

    A ‘muddy’ Todd. Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

  • Store the bike securely while Todd is out of the country and have it prepped, tuned, and ready to roll upon his return.
  • Add air to the tires, check brakes, and make small adjustments for free any time a customer stops by the shop.
  • Take a van to pick up a rider with a mechanical problem if they call from anywhere in the nearby region, at no cost.
  • Reassure a foreigner whose folding bike was just stolen from outside a local mall, and who calls him for advice, that she should not bother with the police, who will simply waste her time by collecting information that they will do nothing with. (That was me. Yes, it happened. Yes, I’m still sad.)
  • Give said foreigner a discount on a new bike to replace the stolen one. (Well, I guess I was a repeat customer … but still, a sympathy discount? Pretty nice.)
Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

The replacement. Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

Moral: Find good people to do business with, and stick with them.

Experiences with customer service in China have alternately made us smile in amazement and shake our heads (if not our fists) in disbelief. And they’ve given us some great stories—and lessons—about how to get what you need, whether you’re a local or a laowai.*

*mzungu, gringo, foreigner

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There’s no exchange of moolah behind these blog pages, pro-deals, or freebies with this series. What you see is what you get; real stories from real people who are sharing their experiences to challenge the status quo, inspire companies to take action, and ultimately build a life long customer. Be sure to check back this week!

July 15: I have renamed my WiFi network “TimeWarnerisHorrible” by Chris Miller

July 13: Our love affair with the world’s most hated airline by Kayla Robertson

July 12: Treat others how you would want to be treated. by Kristin

July 10: Where’s the Line? by Kristin McGunnigle

July 8: Do customers dream of electric sheep? by Stephen Ellis

July 5: Nike earns an A+ by Jackie Ostlie

July 3: How to Please the Queen by Katrina Taylor

July 1: Are you kidding me? by Evelyn Wolf

I have renamed my WiFi network “TimeWarnerIsHorrible.”

I’m a staunch advocate for treating people, especially your customers with the best care and experience, regardless of if you’re Nordstrom or REI. It will pay off in the short and long term for all parties involved. I’ll either be your biggest advocate or your worst enemy. Need proof? Check out the lesson learned from FTD Flowers here and here. Over the course of the month, you’ll read posts from fellow guest bloggers from around the world sharing their good, bad, or ugly customer service experiences…all of them very real. 
Chris Miller

“Just like Tom Selleck … but without the mustache.”

Today’s customer service post comes from Kansas City. Chris Miller is one of the funniest people I know. Definitely in the top three.  I think it might have been the huge orange wig he was wearing when I first met him as part of a Team World Vision event he was at. Don’t believe me? I guarantee you will be easily entertained by his Twitter handle or Facebook feed.  

A few days ago I was asked to write a blog post around a customer service experience. I was told that it could be either a positive or negative experience. As I thought this request and began to ponder which experience I would write about, there was one that immediately came to mind.

But I said no. I repressed the thought. I wouldn’t go there. I couldn’t. This post should be positive. It should reward one of the many good companies doing good work.

I began to think about the good experiences I have had. Receiving a kind reply from a Brooks Running employee on Twitter. Being calmed down by an Apple Store employee after my MacBook refused to start. Chatting with an Amazon employee when I accidentally purchased the wrong software, and thought I had just thrown away a hundred dollars. All good. And would make good stories.

But that one bad experience kept creeping up. I couldn’t shake it. Like a shadowy figure in a dark alley, stalking its next victim, it lingered just out of sight, waiting to take ahold. It haunted me. I couldn’t escape…

Time Warner. Time Warner Cable.

Since moving to Kansas City two years ago, they have been the bane of my Netflix-watching, Facebook-posting existence. From the slower-than-promised download speeds to faster-than-expected calls to upgrade to the premium package, they have proven themselves to be a consistent annoyance. But it wasn’t until an experience two months ago that they became the reason for multiple trips to my therapist.

I had just come home from work. I had a paper due at midnight. I had to get online. I sat down at my computer and dove into my research. Or I intended to. Instead, I found myself staring at the “no networks found” dialogue box on my screen. So I called Time Warner.

The menu. I dial my phone number. Wait? They need my account number too? I opted for paperless billing. I need to get online. I can’t. My phone. Switch to speaker. Open email app. Search. Click the link. Login. How do you find your own account number? The recorded voice prompts me again. My blood pressure is rising. Took too long. Must start the call again. Menu again. Phone number again. Account number again. We are in. Wait. More options. Which department?

Photo Credit: Chris Miller

Photo Credit: Chris Miller

After five minutes of this a got a person, a real life person. I could tell he was real by the “I-hate-my-job” tone in his voice. He checked the area for an outage. Nothing. He said it must be something on my end. We unplugged the router, the cable box, computer, toaster… Everything plugged in was unplugged. We waited five minutes. We replugged. Still Nothing.

For twenty more minutes we tediously completed every step in the Time Warner Cable Tech Support Handbook. I was still not online and running out of time to finish my paper. I think he could hear my panic. He decided to take a closer look at my account. He then noticed that it had been deactivated. He didn’t know why.

We then got on a conference call with someone from accounting. She was confused. She went to get the manager. That left me and the tech guy on the the line, awkwardly listening to hold music. It was like being on an elevator alone with someone who may or may not want to murder me. I was scared.

Finally, she came back. She explained that my account had been closed due to a lack of payment. She said I should contact my bank. I explained that I was set up on Time Warner’s auto payment system. They were debiting the money directly out of my account. She was baffled. She did not know that Time Warner had this service.

She checked with a co-worker. They concluded that Time Warner does indeed have this service, but they have turned it off for my account. She didn’t know why.

She turned it back on, but explained that I must pay the balance. I agreed and got my credit card out. She then informed me that this can only be done through a customer service representative. I asked to be transferred.

They couldn’t transfer me. (That was beyond the capabilities of their system.) I was told I must hang up and call a different number. Once completed, I must call this number back to reactivate my account. I asked for a direct number. They informed me I must go through the phone menu. A single tear fell down the right side of my face. They broke me. In that moment, they broke me.

Forty-five minutes later, I was speaking with my fifth Time Warner employee of the day. The gruffly voice of an overworked technician explained that he could turn my connection back on, but it could take up to twelve hours to activate. All hope was gone. My paper would be late. I would receive a lower grade.

Unfortunately, I am still with Time Warner. There is no viable alternative in my area … yet. Google Fiber is on the way. Until then, I have made it my goal to inform my family, friends, and neighbors of their shady ways. And, as a constant reminder of their bad customer service, I have renamed my WiFi network TimeWarnerIsHorrible.

Chris’ story hits a nerve. I know we all can recall a single time we have been stuck with no other alternatives to leave a brand despite your best efforts. It may be due to uncontrollable circumstances or an industry monopoly. But companies should be reminded that these situations do not create long lasting customers. Rather obligated, disgruntled, and an un-loyal customer base. If you were in Time Warner’s shoes, wow would you turn their reputation and response around? 

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There’s no exchange of moolah behind these blog pages, pro-deals, or freebies with this series. What you see is what you get; real stories from real people who are sharing their experiences to challenge the status quo, inspire companies to take action, and ultimately build a life long customer. Be sure to check back this week!

July 13: Our love affair with the world’s most hated airline by Kayla Robertson

July 12: Treat others how you would want to be treated. by Kristin

July 10: Where’s the Line? by Kristin McGunnigle

July 8: Do customers dream of electric sheep? by Stephen Ellis

July 5: Nike earns an A+ by Jackie Ostlie

July 3: How to Please the Queen by Katrina Taylor

July 1: Are you kidding me? by Evelyn Wolf

Our love affair with the world’s most hated airline.

Over the course of  July, guest bloggers from around the world share their good, bad, or ugly customer service experiences. It’s a place to complain, rant, and highlight opportunities for companies to improve. But, this series is also a place to celebrate when companies do well, processes work effectively, service representatives are our advocates, and we leave a situation as stronger believers in the product or service than we started. 
The lovely Kayla Robertson

The lovely Kayla Robertson

Today’s blog post comes from across the pond. UK to be exact. Australian native turned UK resident turned EU local, Kayla Robertson is a media relations whiz, social media sweetheart, and one of the brightest-sharpest-go getters I know.

Wanting to charge passengers to use the bathroom. Orchestrating an ‘emergency’ landing to save costs on fuel over customer safety. Asserting that seatbelts are useless in a plane crash. Adding a £10 levy for ‘leg room’ for customers sitting near emergency exits.

When it comes to bad experiences on budget airline Ryanair, where to start?

I decided to take my research to twitter to investigate further.

Photo Credit: https://twitter.com/Alex_Morgan_/statuses/355000457292292097

Photo Credit: @Alex_Morgan_

Photo Credit: https://twitter.com/meggiepeel/statuses/355040507996536833

Photo Credit: @meggiepeel

Photo Credit: @tp83avfc

Photo Credit: @tp83avfc

Photo Credit: @WGoodchildMusic

Photo Credit: @WGoodchildMusic

I also stumbled upon a website called www.ihateryanair.org.

It seems that I am not alone.

Yet somehow Ryanair’s customers keep coming back. The airline’s sales are actually increasing rather than decreasing, and despite countless public accounts of terrible customer service, poor safety and of genuine security fears, Ryanair’s business is thriving. Perhaps service and ‘the customer is always right’ theory is not the life-blood of a successful business after all?

As a frequent Ryanair traveller and victim, I’d like to share with you my story.

Before carrying your luggage, carry your wits about you
Photo Credit: Kayla Robertson

Photo Credit: Kayla Robertson

It was in February 2010 and I was backpacking through Europe alone. A little Australian girl, with an extra large backpack and an even larger dream of things to come. I was relatively ‘wet behind the ears’ and known for frequently losing my passport/wallet/driver’s licence at the worst possible opportunity. But more on that later.

I’d arrived at the check-in gate early. Two hours early, as I’d wanted to enjoy as much of the airport time as possible. I quickly checked in my luggage and then spent a precious hour trying on multiple perfume samples at the duty-free, before enjoying a lukewarm latte at the cafe. Life was good.

I saw the boarding light flash next to my Rome flight number and walked towards it like a moth to the flame.

But lions don’t toy with their prey?

I was one of the first in the cue to board and warmly handed my passport and ticket over to the flight attendant.

“Are you an EU citizen?”

“No, I’m Australian. You can see it there on my passport.” On every page. I smiled.

“Non-EU members need a special visa stamp. You don’t have one. If you run, you may still be able to get it.”

Hmm interesting. Nobody mentioned this to me before. Not the coiffed attendant at the check-in desk, gossiping in-between customers. Not the website when I bought the ticket online. I think.

“Oh okay, I haven’t heard this before…” I murmured.

“Run. Now. You might make it before the end of the queue.”

And run I did. I ran through what seemed to be the longest airport ever designed, back through the cafe, through the duty-free and to the original check-in desk, sweaty and heaving great asthmatic breaths. I explained the situation to the new flight attendant, obtained my flimsy stamp, and ran back. Mo Farah, eat your heart out. An Olympic star was born.

I arrived at the queue as the few remaining passengers dwindled in. Three flight attendants had gathered at the desk and were waiting for me, like leopards circling their prey.

“Don’t you dare say that I didn’t tell you about the stamp,” the original coiffed attendant screeched at me as I arrived. “It’s your bloody fault.”

That’s right, she actually swore. I was speechless.

“It’s not right of you to blame your mistakes on the Ryanair staff,” said her colleague next to her. “It’s our job to tell you these things and I was there when she did.”

If my mouth could have opened any more, in-between the great rattling gasps I was taking, it would have.

“No… you definitely didn’t mention… you only spoke about my luggage…”

“Get on the plane now before it takes off.”

I threw them the dirtiest and most dignified scowl I could muster before scurrying on to the plane. I vowed to never catch another Ryanair flight again, and seethed the entire way to Rome. At least I had my passport and wallet on me.

Yet the ‘love affair’ continues

Three years have passed since that experience and sadly I broke my promise to myself. Multiple times.

Photo Credit: Kayla Robertson

Photo Credit: Kayla Robertson

I live in London now and as an EU ‘local’ I consider it a badge of honour to have a bad Ryanair story to share. I’m proud of that fact that I can give travel advice freely like a seasoned pro and impart fear in new backpackers with little budget airline knowledge.

Crucially, I’ve also learnt to keep my wits about me when travelling. I’ve learned that I can’t blame anyone for their mistakes – or for my own – when I’m the one who bears the consequences. Research and preparation are key, and it’s a lesson that’s carried me well.

So in that respect, perhaps my Ryanair experience wasn’t so bad after all?

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There’s no exchange of moolah behind these blog pages, pro-deals, or freebies with this series. What you see is what you get; real stories from real people who are sharing their experiences to challenge the status quo, inspire companies to take action, and ultimately build a life long customer. Be sure to check back this week!

July 12: Treat others how you would want to be treated. by Kristin

July 10: Where’s the Line? by Kristin McGunnigle

July 8: Do customers dream of electric sheep? by Stephen Ellis

July 5: Nike earns an A+ by Jackie Ostlie

July 3: How to Please the Queen by Katrina Taylor

July 1: Are you kidding me? by Evelyn Wolf

Treat others how you would want to be treated.

Over the course of  July, guest bloggers from around the world share their good, bad, or ugly customer service experiences. It’s a place to complain, rant, and highlight opportunities for companies to improve. But, this series is also a place to celebrate when companies do well, processes work effectively, service representatives are our advocates, and we leave a situation as stronger believers in the product or service than we started.  
My fellow Hawaiian and Nike+ addict.

My fellow Hawaiian and Nike+ addict.

Today’s blog post comes from a fellow Hawaiian. Kristin is more of a tech geek and early adopter than I am, though she’ll never care to admit it. Case in point, the Nike+Fuelband. Her superpowers include wit and mind-reading.  She makes you laugh so hard you’re crying and somehow she always knows when you need a kombucha and a high-five.

When it comes to dealing with customer service, I’ve always focused on the idea to ‘treat others how you would want to be treated.’  It seems pretty logical to me that if you desire good service, you set the stage, be the example – you set the tone of the attitude of the conversation.  About 99.9% of the time, this actually works for me.  The outcome usually is a win/win between me and the company, and it’s all good.

However, that .1% just happened to me, and it got quite ugly.

My family and I had recently moved into a new home and we were going through the painstaking process of mail forwarding, setting up utility accounts, etc. On ‘my’ list was to set up our cable/internet service.  I called our previous service provider, Comcast, and asked for our account services to be moved to the new address.  I was also interested in seeing if I would get a reduced rate (perhaps a new fun bundled package)  on the services since it was a new home.  The agent who answered the phone sold me on a bundle (it was going to save me some money) and also offered their newly established home security package.  The way they ‘sold’ it to me, it was not going to cost us a cent more than what we had previously been paying just for cable and internet.  Since we needed a security system in our home, I agreed to talking through rates and having an installer come out to see what we could do.  They scheduled the date, and we were set to go.

When the installer came, he set up our cable and internet, and then attempted to install all of the security items.  Needless to say, it was a long process and he made a few errors along the way, but I trusted him that he was the expert and gave him the space.  However, even upon instruction, he still was unsure of how it all worked.  Again, I gave him some grace, as perhaps our install was a little more difficult given it was a new home.

Well, the install was not done properly, and essentially, we got a little frustrated with the way it worked, and the next day, attempted to make a ‘return’ on the home security.  The representative did tell me that I a month to try it out, and if it wasn’t working out, I could return it for a full money back guarantee.

Thus begins my ‘journey’ with my motto of ‘treat them as I would like to be treated’.

I made a total of 6 different calls and online chats to Comcast’s customer service department.   I have never experienced a more disjointed series of events with a company, ever.  I had each agent literally promising me things that never came through, and then each time I spoke with them, they were ‘not able to see the transcript of my last chat’.    Having to re-explain everything each time I spoke with them became the true test of my patience.

However, it was between the effort of my 5th and 6th attempt with them that truly skyrocketed my own attitude to orbit.

I was online with an agent, explaining to them that I had not been credited my full amount of money that I fronted to them upon installation of the home security services.  There was a difference of about $400 that was completely missing from their ‘files’ – and I wanted it all back.   I had bank statements open in front of me , dates and receipts –  I had it all and was fully prepared.  The agent online went to check with her supervisor on the status of my account, and assured me that we would be getting a refund in order.  While she was ‘checking’ on it, I got a call.   It was another agent from Comcast, the same company.  So, I was ‘chatting’ with someone online, while another agent actually calls me on the phone.  The second agent on the phone proceeds to tell me that there is nothing they can do with servicing me my money back, while I have the first agent online telling me the complete opposite.

It was a glimmer of hope and despair all at the same time.

What was the result?  Well, according to the agent on the phone, I was not to receive any money back, and that the agent online was misinformed.

Photo Credit: info.hoganassessments.com

Photo Credit: info.hoganassessments.com

My pleasant attitude went out the door in less than 10 seconds.

“Why am I being told two completely different things by the same company AT THE SAME TIME?”

“I’m not sure ma’am, but I am the one with your account open and we do not see any errors”

“Well can you see in your systems that I am chatting with someone online?”

“No”

Round and round.  It went like this for about 15 minutes. 15 long, frustrating, minutes.

Well, how did this all turn out?  A month later, I finally got in touch with an actual, live, local Comcast representative who escalated this to higher management and got me my credit back.  

Oh, and for the record – they WERE able to pull up all of my transcripts and see how I was told 6 different things by each agent…whew!

Did I certainly attempt to keep my attitude pleasant through each interaction?  Yes!  Treat them as you would want to be treated.  But to be treated in the way I was treated by this company – My attitude was sure tested.  I just hope that they realize that my whole intention was to try to understand and be pleasant.

I can’t imagine being as patient as Kristin, especially being $400 poorer and a new homeowner. Actually for a fact I know I’m not, as seen by my experiences with online floral companies here and here. I have no idea what Comcast’s agents were doing or why their transcript screens weren’t working or even why their service responses were inconsistent.  Regardless Kristin challenges us to take the higher road, even when the company doesn’t deserve it and works with the company to identify areas of growth so others don’t have to experience what she did. Have a similar experience to share? Post it in the comments! 

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There’s no exchange of moolah behind these blog pages, pro-deals, or freebies with this series. What you see is what you get; real stories from real people who are sharing their experiences to challenge the status quo, inspire companies to take action, and ultimately build a life long customer. Be sure to check back this weekend for an upcoming post courtesy of Kayla Robertson who shares her experience with possibly the the worst airline ever.

July 10: Where’s the Line? by Kristin McGunnigle

July 8: Do customers dream of electric sheep? by Stephen Ellis

July 5: Nike earns an A+ by Jackie Ostlie

July 3: How to Please the Queen by Katrina Taylor

July 1: Are you kidding me? by Evelyn Wolf

Where’s the Line?

Over the course of  July, guest bloggers from around the world share their good, bad, or ugly customer service experiences. It’s a place to complain, rant, and highlight opportunities for companies to improve. But, this series is also a place to celebrate when companies do well, processes work effectively, service representatives are our advocates, and we leave a situation as stronger believers in the product or service than we started.  
Kristin is never far from her coffee and her passport.

Kristin is never far from her coffee and passport.

Today’s post comes from the  Pacific Northwest. Seattle, Washington to be exact. Kristin McGunnigle is a natural born social media superstar who works full time in experiential marketing. She is hands down the most energetic person I’ve ever met, even at 7:30 AM! She’s also a sports aficionado, coffee lover, and is never far from her passport. 

You could say that customer service is in my blood.

My childhood was filled with my mother embarrassing the family, quick to express her expectation for sharp customer service. I’m convinced her love for Nordstrom has nothing to do with the product, and much more to do with the “customer’s always right”.  She passed that love for a certain store over to me. A renowned Seattle company, built with exceptional customer support and an insane return policy. Legend has it they once returned a car tire. I have become my mother; growing to expect the best of the businesses I frequent, especially in my home of Seattle, WA, a city that’s home to retailers that boast best return policies in the industry – Costco, Nordstrom and REI. If I experience poor customer service, the organization probably wont be seeing me again. But what happens when it’s your favorite local coffee shop just a few blocks from your apartment?

About a year and a half ago, I moved to an active neighborhood in Seattle, walking distance to everything. One of my favorite coffee shops happened to be a couple blocks down the road, so as you can imagine, it became my place. The coffee is excellent and I absolutely adore the baristas. The owner on the other hand is a piece of work and has displayed some of the worst customer service I’ve ever experience in Seattle.

The shop offers foursquarers a $1 off coffee deal when you check in on weekdays. The first time I ever interacted with owner, I showed her the check in after she had rang in my order and she ridiculed me for my delayed reaction. I was a bit surprised by her sharp tone and rude demeanor but I just attributed it up to a bad day. Unfortunately it wasn’t isolated. On another occasion, she blasted my two friends and I for ordering two meals instead of three. She even tried to shortchange my friend once on a separate visit.

It is some of the most appalling service I’ve every experienced. Even if you are frustrated with a customer, you never, I repeat, NEVER show them your frustration. By the time I’d realized the reoccurring problem, I’d already fallen for the fantastic location and great product and built relationships with the baristas. All of me wanted to dump this place and visit the other coffee shop a few blocks away but I was hooked. I couldn’t leave my favorite baristas and my $1 off weekday coffees. I wrestled with the decision but couldn’t stay away. On recent visits, the owner has improved (I guess someone finally read the yelp reviews) but still has her moments.

This experience completely brakes the cycle of how I typically react to poor customer service. Maybe the line wasn’t as defined as I always thought.

Kristin’s experience stirs up a lot of great questions and thoughts around customer service and one’s loyalty to a product. What line do you draw for customer service? What makes or breaks your loyalty to a business? What would you do if you were in Kristin’s shoes?

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-There’s no exchange of moolah behind these blog pages, pro-deals, or freebies with this series. What you see is what you get; real stories from real people who are sharing their experiences to challenge the status quo, inspire companies to take action, and ultimately build a life long customer. Be sure to check back this week!

July 8: Do customers dream of electric sheep? by Stephen Ellis

July 5: Nike earns an A+ by Jackie Ostlie

July 3: How to Please the Queen by Katrina Taylor

July 1: Are you kidding me? by Evelyn Wolf