Wednesday, July 20, 2011

how it all began

Most people are familiar with that iconic scene in the movie "Pretty Woman" in which Vivian tries to go shopping on Rodeo drive for a "conservative" cocktail dress, only to be turned away by a few salesgirls who are too big for their designer britches.  Oh, that rhymes with something apropos!

Talk about bad customer service!  By way of a short aside, I work for a company with an emphasis on both sales and customer service.  You might imagine most companies in today's financial climate would focus on the latter to drive the former.  However, a problem we occasionally run into with our sales reps is what we call profiling, which is exactly what happens to Vivian in this little snippet.  Judging by superficial but immediately obvious characteristics, a person in a sales role might blow a terrific opportunity because they "put 2+2 together" and figured the person wasn't going to buy/couldn't afford it.  As Vivian later comes by to show, these salesgirls made that mistake and it cost them a big bonus to their paychecks.

For as pitiful and/or anger-inspiring as that scene might be, the next scene is nothing short of inspiring:

She returns to the Regent Beverly Wilshire, still looking very much like a hooker, and is stopped on the way back to her room by the hotel manager, Barnard Thompson (played by Hector Elizondo).  He escorts her into his office to discuss how unwelcome she is at the hotel but that since she is with a very wealthy man whose business he wants to maintain, she will be allowed to remain until he checks out.  When Barnard tries to dismiss her, Vivian tells him her shopping tale of woe and becomes visibly upset. He picks up the phone and calls a "friend" who works at a women's boutique.  She helps Vivian find the perfect LBD (little black dress, for any men in the audience) and everyone is happy.

This example further illustrates the point I alluded to in last night's post: whenever one person turns you away or provides very poor customer service, there is usually someone waiting just around the corner to win your very valuable business.  My hope for this blog is that you will look around until you find that person.

This past weekend, my husband and I, along with 13 friends, visited North Bowl in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia.  We made merry, aside from missing out on some of the eating and drinking that would have been going on if our waitress was even remotely interested in serving us.  Apparently, she was far more interested in having a conversation with other employees to notice us waving our menus in the air and staring at her after we'd been seated for about 30 minutes.  When we finally convinced her to take our order, she was extremely patronizing and couldn't even be bothered to check back on us after a runner delivered our food.  If she had come to visit us a time or two, she very easily could have doubled or tripled her tip.  Like I said, there were 15 of us and we spent 5 hours there, eating (kind of), drinking (when we wanted to walk over to the bar for more), and catching up on lost time.

Despite her complete neglect of our tables while we were there and hungry, she somehow managed to find the time to bring us our check and check back to see if we were ready twice within about 15-20 minutes.  Impressive!  If only she had been that bored earlier....

Because I was the one who recommended the joint, I was embarrassed that my friends had another reason to think all service in Philly is horrendous when I specifically chose North Bowl to demonstrate the opposite.  Her "service" was unacceptable and as soon as we got home, I wrote a very long and detailed email to North Bowl, letting them know how dissatisfied we were and how unlikely we were to patronize their establishment in the future.

I'll tell you something, though.  If you're looking for the link to North Bowl in the Last Place Losers tab, you'll be poking around for a while.  Why don't you save yourself some time and head over to the World Class Winners tab if you'd like to get their contact info, check out the menu, and plan your next trip there.

Why the change in heart?  Not even 12 hours after I wrote that email, I received not one but two replies from Leemor, one of the managers.  He was horrified by my account of the service we had received and wanted to make it right.  He watched the video tape of the time we were in his establishment in order to identify and correct the wayward waitress.  He apologized profusely and sincerely for her behavior and assured me that it would be addressed and we would not have that experience again.  He closed by making the smart move of any manager (which we all know, but it still works) - he invited me and three of my friends to come back for a round of bowling and drinks on the house.

I am thrilled with his prompt and professional response to my complaint and he has ensured that North Bowl has returned to my good graces.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Tale of Two Jewelers

It's always a little difficult, I think, getting started on a new project.  This is my second blog - about two years ago I started a cooking/foodie blog to follow me through my adventures in the kitchen.  If you'd like to check it out, I'm sure you can find at least one amusing post.

In a sense, it was that blog that spurred the creation of this one.  I work in a customer service oriented industry, but more importantly, I care about people.  I tend toward seeing the value in people, until they give me a good reason to think otherwise.  I start out from a baseline of respect, rather than making someone "earn" their way into being treated like a human being.  What others choose to do is their prerogative.

Until it relates to me, that is.

The word "service" is lost upon a lot of people these days.  When you serve someone, you put yourself in a place of humility.  You make yourself a little bit lower so that you can elevate the other.  There are many people who serve: there is the obvious, such as waitstaff, and the maybe not-so-obvious, like ministers.  It seems to me that the "higher" a position you hold, the more willing you should be to demonstrate service as you may have more eyes to influence.

I am the person who writes letters to management to tell them about the phenomenal service provided to me by this representative of their company.  I think we are generally far quicker to let management know when we are dissatisfied than when we are satisfied, so I try to tip the scales a little.  That being said, if someone provides appalling "service," I have no problem providing the management with a detailed report on where their employee failed to represent their company in the way they surely would want it represented.  It seems there is a 50/50 split between managers who couldn't possibly care less if I was paying them to care less, and managers who respond quickly and appropriately to ensure that they regain my potentially lost patronage.  There are times that a manager's response to a poorly handled situation can put a more positive light on a company than if their service provider had done a stellar job in the first place.

Here is what I have found in recounting years of good and bad service: For every bad experience you have, someone is waiting to provide World Class Service.  Sometimes, that someone waits within the same 4 walls, other times, you'll need to take your business elsewhere to get the treatment you deserve.  Let me open my blog and close this post with A Tale of Two Jewelers:

In 2007, my bad luck from 2006 turned around completely.  As a result, I found myself shopping for wedding jewelry in the heat of a Philadelphia summer.  My [now] husband and I felt extremely fortunate to live within easy walking distance of Philadelphia's famous Jewelers' Row.  We headed up to a glitter-lined lane to take our pick from dozens of well-advertised jewelry stores.  At one end of Jewelers' Row, we were greeted by the elevated and imposing building of Safian and Rudolph, and on the other, Robbin's 8th and Walnut, whose ads I watched since I was a child.

We headed into Safian and Rudolph's to find a young salesman hurriedly putting his fancy shoes back on his feet and an older gentleman who smelled vaguely of alcohol standing arrogantly behind the counter.  We stated our business and even gave an idea of our preferences and were directed toward a specific section of rings.  To my surprise, the selection was limited - I had expected more from their advertisements.  What amazed my husband and I, however, was the distinct impression we got from the salesman behind the counter - he seemed completely unimpressed with us.  He put absolutely no effort into assisting us and seemed to roll his eyes that we were even in his shop.  I can only imagine we did not fit the suburban, main-line type he was used to serving because he did not take a single item out of the case for us.

Disgusted with his attitude and the store's collection, we walked out into the sunshine and headed down the block.  Finally, we found ourselves in Robbins 8th and Walnut and in the extraordinarily attentive care of a saleswoman named Doris.  How is that for an impression?  Four years after this event, I still remember her name.  Why?  Because she took out just about every ring in the store that was even remotely near the description we gave her.  She turned the store upside down to find the perfect wedding band to match my somewhat unusual engagement ring.  There were a few rings that I loved, but no matter how much I loved them, they were not actually what we were looking for, stylistically.  Regardless of the far higher commission they would have paid, she gently guided me away from them and back to a few others she thought were better for us.

We bought my wedding band from Doris.  Are you surprised?  You shouldn't be - she spent at least an hour of her day with us, fussing over me and my silver and garnet engagement ring, determined to find the perfect wedding band to match the knife-edge shape of my ring while adding a little glamour.  She found a ring that sparkled with two rows of little diamonds, one on each side of the "knife edge" in a tone of white gold that matched my silver engagement ring so perfectly that to this day, no one else knows they are two different metals.

My husband and I were steaming when we left Safian and Rudolph's and I could tell that he anticipated we would have that experience in the other stores as well.  We were beaming when we left Robbins, and all it took was a little bit of genuine service.