Amy Campbell, Senior Editor

June 18, 2008

4 Min Read
A Woeful Tale of Customer Service

Most companies believe they offer excellent customer service. Perhaps they should take a closer look. Last year, I bought a rather expensive lawn mower from a major retailer. The mower is the brand-name this company has conditioned the buying public to associate with quality. I also purchased a service warranty with it that states if I am not satisfied with the product, I get my money back.

Within three months, a wheel broke. So I took the mower in for repair. No problem, it was fixed. Except the wheel broke again. I took it back only to receive a call a few days later telling me there was nothing wrong with the wheel. I explained the problem, and the tech said he’d look into it. He called a few days later, agreed the wheel was broken and said he would have to order one. It would take the ubiquitous “seven to 10 working days.” Three weeks went by. I called; the part hadn't been ordered yet. In the meantime, my grass was up to my knees.

Calls to management went unanswered, so I wrote a letter to the company’s headquarters. I got a phone call a few days later with an apology, and within four days, my mower was back home.

But wait, there's more... At the same time I bought the mower, I purchased a weed eater (I was on a roll), and a replacement warranty. The weed eater broke, so I took it back the day I picked up the lawn mower. I fully expected the store to live up to its agreement. Only my warranty record was not in the system. The sales associate, who wore a badge with the ignominious designation, “Trainee,” tried his best to find me in the store’s database while his eyes scanned the floor desperately looking for his superior. His feeble “sorry” as he handed back my weed eater did nothing to mollify my anger.

I called the company's headquarters and left several messages ... no reply. So, I’ve written another letter (beware the power of the written word, I say).

The store is celebrating its 80th anniversary, and no doubt the shareholders expect 80 more years of business. Well, it will be without my paltry dollars. True, I am only one customer out of millions, and my dissatisfaction will have little impact on the bottom line. But I am talking to my family, friends and now you about this abysmal customer service.

We are all expected to do more, in less time with better results. I get that; it's the nature of industry. And I totally admire people who work in retail. The ability to serve the customer week after week with a cheerful, positive attitude—despite perhaps having a headache, or family worries or just being tired—truly amazes me.

What has this got to do with self-storage? Those two magical words—customer service. I'm the first to admit I could never work in retail. The first dissatisfied customer would have me turning in my resignation. Probably 99 percent of the time, your staff gives excellent customer service. Without exception, everyone I have interviewed for an article for ISS states they love being in this industry.

I'm not going to tell you about how you should instill in your staff the spirit of helpfulness, you already know that. But if you want a refresher on motivating employees, ISS offers dozens of articles such as this one titled “Creative Customer Service” by Sharon Pallas. Or this one by Jim Kane called “Delivering Customer Service.” Jim Chiswell uses shopping for clothing to illustrate his thoughts on customer service in a column he titled “A Good Fit.” There are dozens more you can find by searching our archives.

I would like to just remind you that your staff is human, with aches, pains and concerns. They may not intend taking it out on a customer, but it can happen. Just be open to how your staff is each and every day. A little empathy could head off a potentially damaging incident, and an “I understand” spoken sincerely to your employees will earn their gratitude and loyalty.

In the meantime, my war with the retail giant has not ended. I take no quarter!

About the Author(s)

Amy Campbell

Senior Editor, Inside Self Storage

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