It’s been decades and my father still hasn’t forgotten: Threatened with arrest, his wife in tears, their anniversary ruined. And to top it all off, he was still hungry.
Every time I hear the story, I ask him how it came to that. My father replies, “I never saw it coming.”
For their anniversary, my parents had gone to a well-known eatery north of Boston. Always a popular place, this night it was particularly crowded.
They waited a long time to be seated. They waited a long time for menus, and for a server. They waited a particularly long time for the meals.
Several hours after they arrived, my father’s meal arrived, but not his wife’s. My father would not begin eating until her meal arrived. When her food finally arrived a long time later, he asked the server to replace his meal, since it was cold. To his surprise, the server refused.
My father asked for a manager — and that’s when it got really ugly. They refused to replace his food. Dad moved to leave, and the manager threatened to call the police. The food remained on the plates untouched. My parents left, were not arrested, and never returned to that restaurant.
Service with a snarl
Few things are worse than enduring a bad customer service experience. Unfortunately, all too often companies don’t meet your service expectation.
According to a US Chamber of Commerce study, 68 percent of customers have left a company because they were upset with the treatment they received while dealing with customer services. Nearly 90 percent of consumers surveyed say they left a company for a competitor following a bad customer service experience.
Why does a simple request to make something right turn into a customer service issue? Why do simple service requests turn nasty? Why do we, like my father, ask ourselves, “Why didn’t I see this coming?”
Looking back, you might see there were warning signs of impending poor customer service. Here are five to watch for:
Warning sign #1: A long wait.
Any time you wait a really, really long time it’s a bad sign. It usually means the company is very busy or understaffed. (I offer a waiver for theme parks and doctor’s offices here, but reluctantly.) Whether you are standing in line or waiting on hold, odds are that at best they will apologize for keeping you waiting, then tell you they can’t help you.
Naturally, when most of us endure a long wait, we grow impatient. We don’t want to hear excuses. We want satisfaction and we want it now. And when we want something now and don’t get it, once again we’re going to have a bad experience.
Warning sign #2: It was hard to reach them.
When Rose Joyce of Framingham, MA decided to join Facebook, she was surprised to learn her email account had already been assigned by Facebook to a different person with a different name. Joyce says she tried to contact Facebook to see if she could claim her email address, but couldn’t find a resource for non-members.