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customer experience

Paul Gilligan

Here are the best customer-experience stories submitted by Globe and Mail readers last week on our Globe and Mail Facebook page:

From Old Coot: Went to buy a major appliance recently. The first store that we visited was not high on my list of "likely to buy from," but the sales manager was knowledgeable, attentive and answered all our questions honestly.

The second store, which I figured we'd be buying from, had a saleswoman who was much more interested in talking on the phone to somebody than attending to our needs. We were treated as a distraction to her day.

We bought from Store #1 at a higher price than Store #2. Ignore your prospective customers at your peril.

From Dom Nunes Jackson: My friend and I were in a pub in downtown Ottawa. Our server handed us our menus, took our beverage orders, then vanished. Someone else brought us our drinks, and yet another person took our meal orders and served them to us. So when the bill came (delivered by our actual server), we gave her a very measly tip to make the point. She picked up our money, saw the tip amount, caught my friend's eye and mouthed the words "f@#! you" from across the room. Classy gal!

From Ivona Bradley: Bought a pair of shoes at a major discount retailer. First time I wore them the heel broke. Took them back the next day. Customer service (and I use the term loosely!) looks at the shoes, frowns, and tells me that I cannot get a refund because I wore the shoes outside. They are SHOES, not SLIPPERS! Of course I wore them outside! I didn't take no for an answer and had to insist on speaking with the manager. Eventually I did get my refund, but boy, the staff was not pleasant!

From Linda Tobias: A do-it-yourself moving company rented me a truck that failed to stop at a stop sign at the bottom of a hill; it went halfway into the intersection. When I told them about it, the clerk said, "Oh yeah, we've got a guy coming in tomorrow to work on the brakes."

From Persona non grata: I wandered around a big-box hardware store for a long time looking for an electrical switch. Found one for $2.49 but no one to suggest to me as to how to install it. So I left it there.

More Customer Experience stories:

I went to a little electrical service shop, the kind with electricians who come out to your house to perform their duties. There I found what I was looking for. The electrician told me it was not the correct switch, that I should have another kind of switch which he sold me for $4.29 and drew a diagram as to how to install it along with an invitation to phone him if I had a problem. I followed his instructions and it works just fine.

It's sad that we have allowed these mega box/anchors to happen, that they undersell qualified, experienced technicians, and are, for the most part, useless.

From Toronto Tax Guy: The biggest mistake a business can do with me is lie to me. My Internet service was off and on for a week, then I lost service altogether before I had some time to phone them. I called and they told me the service would be fixed within 24 hours. The next day when I still didn't have service I called back and they told me they couldn't work on it because they had my address wrong!

Funny, several employees had come to my brand new house to install both the telephone and satellite service and the bills come to the correct address. The only time the address is incorrect is when they need to fix something? I do not accept being lied to.

From Jeamphe: "For service in French, press 9" (in English!). This is no joke folks, and to top this, the French-speaking employee was unintelligible.

And what about endless automated menus? I prefer a bad someone than an excellent no one.

From One Ton: I once worked in a store where a customer came in with a device he'd bought, which was continually breaking-down. He got frustrated with our snide head of repairs, so he asked to see a manager and demanded the device be replaced, since it had been repaired four times in the first three months he'd owned it, and it had been in our shop more than in his possession.

The manager seemed to feel that a replacement was not warranted - however, the manager's mistake was to deliver this news with a big smile, and take obvious pleasure in both the customer's increasing distress and his power to increase this distress by being obstinately unhelpful while grinning like a hyena.

So the customer broke his nose with his faulty product, left it on the floor and walked out of the store.

Deal with small, locally owned businesses as often as you can, for as many things as you can. They are more likely to be more responsive to problems, are easier to go after if they mess you about, and have a genuine interest in customer retention. If you question the logic of this, try calling one of the big telcos in Canada, or a Canadian bank, or any other big corporation in this country about your dissatisfaction with their service. You are a number to them, and they couldn't care less.

From Dick From Red Deer: I was a new employee at a cable company. A lady called in almost in tears. A few months back she had moved into an apartment with her one TV. The previous tenant had multiple outlets and was paying for them. The new customer didn't need multiple outlets and didn't ask for multiple outlets, yet in her first bill she was charged for them. She had complained and they sent out a technician for a "facility check" to verify she wasn't lying. Next month she gets a bill for multiple outlets. She calls. They do another facility check to make sure she wasn't lying. Next month get the drill.

I told her that this was crazy and I wouldn't give up until I got her billing corrected. I went to the manager of customer service and explained the situation. Her answer: Do a facility check. Even though I was a new employee I told her no, that was ridiculous. The manager snapped out of her usual zombie mindset and finally agreed to correct the billing. I called the customer and advised her that we got it right this time and apologized on behalf of the company for putting her through this.

The reason I tell this story is that most business relies on a tier of middle management positions that are filled by woefully inadequate clowns. Many times, the customer service front line staff is unable to deliver good service because of their management.

From nonsibisedaliis: You take the trouble to go to a store for personal service, then the phone rings and the customer service wonk races to pick up the phone because they've been trained not to let it ring more than three times. They then proceed to studiously ignore you until you leave in frustration

From Anna Mary McIlwain: On a five-hour flight a U.S. airline ran out of the one meal served, so passengers in the last five rows got NO food and NO explanation or apology. That was repeated at the airport when this passenger went to the customer service desk to complain.

Same flight - missed our connection and luggage was lost!!!