Sunday, January 9, 2011

One Bad Apple Could Have Spoiled The Whole Bunch

Over the last few weeks, I’ve slowly been sorting through my possessions and getting rid of the things that I don’t want, don’t need, doesn’t fit or is just too hard to keep clean and orderly.

In that process, I got rid of most of my old furniture so have been looking in stores and on line to replace them with items that are a lot more ergonomic, comfortable, attractive and reasonably priced.

About a week before Christmas, I decided that I wanted to find a small storage ottoman. I wanted one in black in either leather or a faux leather so it would be easy to clean. I checked out several online sites for local furniture stores and found one that looked like it would fit my needs perfectly. It was relatively small and compact at 17”x17.5”x17”. The lid was reversible with padding on one side to use as a seat/foot rest and the other side was flat to use as a serving surface. Inside was a smaller cube ottoman.

It wasn’t on sale but was still a fairly good deal at $79.00. The problem was that I didn’t have that much extra money at the time as I had just hit a really great deal on two leather chairs. So, I decided to just bookmark the page and check it after Christmas to see if it was part of a boxing week sale. I continued to check other sites and stores but nothing else really appealed to me.

Boxing Day, I checked the site and sure enough - the ottoman was on sale for $49.00! I wasn’t about to order it online though as the chain charged $50 for delivery on orders under $500! Yikes! Besides, I hadn’t seen it in person so wasn’t sure of the quality. I called a friend who lives on that side of the city and asked her to check it out. She knows my taste and what I was looking for so I trusted her judgement.

She went over to the store Monday morning and asked a sales person about the ottomans and said she wanted one in black. He pointed out where they were and said that was what was available. He never offered to check if there were more in the back or even see if more were coming in. Needless to say, my friend was less than impressed. She left empty handed and called me with the tale.

I thought that was odd as the website indicated that the item was available for pickup in the colour I wanted at the store I had indicated. I called the store and asked to check product availability. I was transferred to a nice gentleman, who informed me that two of the black were in stock but they could not be put on hold.

I called my friend back and said I would try and get it online and request customer pickup to avoid the delivery fee. When I filled out the online form, it said the earliest I could pick the item up was Wednesday. Huh? I called the store back and spoke with the woman who answered the phone. I explained what had happened with my friend and the attitude of the sales person. She was appalled that the sales person had been so rude to a potential customer regardless of how much they may spend.

I also told her about my phone call a few minutes earlier and asked if I could purchase it over the phone and have my friend pick it up shortly. Normally they will only take orders up to $50 over the phone and the balance would be paid in person - but because of the circumstances and the mistreatment of the first sales person, she made an exception. The total would only be a little over $50 anyways. She took down my info and said she would call me back after confirming the item was in stock. Sure enough she called me back 10 minutes later and we completed the transaction over the phone. She apologized again for how this had all been handled. She gave me her name and asked that my friend speak with her directly when she returned.

I called my friend back and she returned to the store a short time later. When she got back to the store she went directly to the front counter and asked for the woman I had spoken with. Turns out, that the woman had noticed my friend when she had been in earlier – they had made eye contact. She also apologized to my friend for how she had been treated. She also asked my friend to point out the sales person in question from a wall display of sales people photos – which my friend did. The woman also told my friend that she had placed a customer comment/survey form with the invoice and asked her to fill it out.

Good customer service should be a given in any area. Treating your customers and clients equally and fairly can earn you lifelong consumer loyalty. Unfortunately one negative experience with a bad employee or an employee having a bad day can turn you off an entire store or chain. One bad apple can indeed spoil the whole bunch.

Being polite to all customers isn’t easy either - but you are a reflection of the business that employees you. If you treat your customers poorly, don’t expect us to come back – let alone recommend your store/service to anyone else down the road. You cannot judge a customer on their appearance or what they wanted to purchase. A $50 ottoman may not have seemed worth your effort but you never know when that same person (or someone they know) may be in the market for a much more expensive item. A customer is a customer whether they spend $5 or $5,000 and you wouldn’t have a job without our business.

I’ve had countless experiences with customer service over the years. Luckily most of it has been good – and I always express gratitude for good service. I’ve written about great service here in the past. (“Good Service Is Good Business” “Microwave - Part Two”)

Unfortunately, I’ve also had bad customer service. Whenever possible I try to bring that poor service to the attention of a manager. I give them an opportunity to make things right before I tell people to avoid that business like the plague!

Had I not called the store back that morning to check the availability of the ottoman, I’m sure that my friend and I would never have gone near the store again. But, something just told me to check this out and see if the sales person wasn’t doing their job.

Glad I did as the service I got over the phone was phenomenal. The woman in the front office could not have been nicer or more understanding of the situation. My friend felt the same way when she went back to pick up my ottoman.

I haven’t finished refurnishing my home, but the ottoman looks great with my chair!

The customer survey has been filled out and sent.

So what store was it you may ask? Well, I could name it but I think it is more important that both staff and customers always do their best to treat each other with respect and courtesy. After all isn’t that the way we all want to be treated?


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