There has been some good PR lately about companies who are doing customer service right and getting loyal fans because of it. Stories about Chick-fil-A and Zappos are numerous. Yet we still see companies who just drop the ball. The real estate industry is certainly one of the them. As a customer service provider myself, I cringe whenever I hear stories about how poorly people do their jobs in a service industry.
Case in point, is this open letter to Sprint written by my own brother about the service he received here in Kansas City from a Sprint retail store. Cell phone service is such a huge commodity. They spend millions of dollars trying to attract new customers. But when your first experience as a new customer goes like this, it’s easy to see why people leave.
Here is his letter in its entirety, unedited.
Your business is selling mobile phones and service.
Yet at every step of my recent purchase, every system and every person has failed in some way.
I attempted to purchase online but it wouldn’t let me purchase the color I wanted. It didn’t tell me why, it just greyed out the continue button when I selected that color.
I called customer service and they said they were out of that model in that color. However the website showed several local stores with that model in that color as “In stock”. The customer service rep contacted a couple of them and after a very long wait, they were also out.
Whatever…I choose another color and finished my web order with local pickup. I set an appointment for the next day at 11:30 figuring I could pick up the phone on my lunch break.
I walk in the store at exactly 11:30 and am greeted by someone at the door. I tell him I am picking up an internet purchase. He looks up my account on his tablet and promptly hands me off to another rep….. Who then asks for my information again and looks me up on his computer.
He then proceeds to tell me that the system will not let him even look at my order for another 25 minutes and that apparently I didn’t know my appointment time.
I showed him my confirmation e-mail showing my appointment time as 11:30. He said he didn’t know what was going on, but that he couldn’t do anything for another 20 minutes.
At this point I knew he just didn’t know what he was doing, but I also knew that telling him that wouldn’t help the situation any. So I said that I would wait.
During this period, the associate, with an irritated attitude, felt it necessary to tell me that the reason this is happening is that the online system and the in-store system are completely different systems and they “butt heads all the time” and that If I had just come into the store, this wouldn’t have been an issue. That’s right; this is all my fault for being stupid enough to use the online ordering system.
So now it is 12:00, he looks it up again and he still isn’t “allowed to look at the order”. Luckily at this point the assistant manager comes back from lunch or whatever. She at least seems like she has done this before and knows what to do to make the order go through. She has to jump though many many hoops and there are many periods of just waiting for the system to process. She apologizes the entire time. Tries to make time with chit chat and is generally very pleasant. At one point while waiting, she goes to take care of something and I ask the original guy about the rebate. He says that since I purchased it online it is automatically processed….. Anyone who has ever processed a rebate for anything ever knows that is not even remotely how rebates work.
During this time the associate I was working with before decides it is time for some music. He connects his phone to one of the Bluetooth speaker demo units and proceeds to TURN IT UP TO ABSURD VOLUMES. It sounds horrible and it is obvious the device is either hitting electronic or physical clipping. It’s not painfully loud, but it is loud enough that any kind of normal conversation is impossible. I don’t know if someone finally noticed my unappreciative looks or what, but thankfully the party only lasted the duration of 1 song.
It is now 12:30 and we are finally breaking the seal on the phone box and getting it activated and tied to my account. I ask the assistant manager about the rebate and she sends the guy to the back to get the form. I make sure to smile real big at him. While again, waiting for the system, the assistant manager fills out the rebate form and addresses the envelope for me. She notes that my “in-store” receipt shows the price as $0 and that I will want to include my online receipt as well showing the price or the rebate might get rejected. Again she apologized about how long it is taking.
12:47 and we are done. I turn to leave and the AM apologizes one last time time and says she appreciates my patience and my business. It is at this point that another associate, with whom we have had absolutely no interaction, snarkily says, “But she really doesn’t.” Are you F-ING KIDDING ME!?
If I wasn’t already going to be a half hour late getting back to work, I would have turned right back around and given everyone in that store a lesson in customer service. I would have told that young lady that it doesn’t matter if she is just joking around. It doesn’t even matter that if it is true that the AM doesn’t appreciate me or my business. What matters is that the AM was courteous and professional and that I believed that she was not only sorry, but embarrassed about how ridiculous Sprint’s system and her co-workers are. And that because of her and ONLY her, Sprint not only saved a sale, but a customer.. BARELY.
It is now a week later. I am keeping the phone so I need to mail in my rebate form. I go to find my online receipt only to find I was never sent one. My account is currently showing a credit for the purchase price of the phone, as if I haven’t been billed for it yet. I access the online chat an the associate sends me a receipt via e-mail. Although it doesn’t really look like a receipt because it doesn’t show me paying anywhere. I asked the online agent about the credit and ask if it would just be cleared up in my next bill and she said, “Of course”. I am including the e-mail receipt and a copy of my in-store receipt with my rebate form. I sincerely hope that my rebate gets processed correctly (in approximately 8 weeks); but I am seriously doubtful this is the last time I am going to have to contact Sprint about this.
So in closing, I would just like to say: Get your shit together, Sprint.
I’m sure you’ve all had similar bad customer service experiences. And you already know that someone is talking about you or your real estate team to someone else. Is it a positive conversation, or a negative one? As the assistant, your entire job revolves around customer service, or shall I say customer experience. What are you doing to make sure everyone in the transaction feels like they are in good hands when you are handling their file? How are you proving your caring and competency.
One thing we’ve implemented on our team is to ask the clients, “Is there anything I can do to make this a five-star experience for you?” You may have heard this or something similar, but it’s worth implementing in your phone or email conversations with clients. It sets the expectation that you are interested in serving the client to their standards. AKA, the platinum rule. “Do unto others as they themselves would have done unto them.”
Remember, we teach people how to treat us. So when imply to someone, “Teach me how you want to be treated,” we are saying something different to them than anyone else. Most of the time, people say, “No, just keep doing what you are doing.” Because all throughout their experience with our team, they have been receiving top notch customer service.
Most people just want you to do what you say you are going to do. I’m sure you know how rare that is these days. Just recently I had to ask several vendors for their W-9’s. Several told me they would get them to me by the end of the week and then never did. I’m sure you know how frustrating this is. So don’t ever do this to your clients. It doesn’t take much to keep people happy, but it’s crucially important to the business that you are keeping your promises. When people have conversations about their last home sale or purchase, you want your team’s clients to say, “We had an awesome experience with the XYZ Team. They always did everything they said they would.”
How would you rank your customer service skills? Is it time to adopt a new attitude? As always, reach out to me with any questions even if you just want my opinion on something. I’m happy to help! egilbert AT kw DOT com