In America today, I’m convinced that we are now conditioned to accept mediocre customer service. Too many managers don’t teach their employees how to speak with a customer. Too many companies get bloated and stop focusing on the experience from the customer’s view and start focusing on their bottom line. The product you want to buy is good, so you continue to deal with poor customer service because it’s just too painful, or too much trouble to switch. Let me give you some examples.
Some of you know that I’m involved with Gideons International. I love this organization, so much that when they asked me to accept the role of Vice President of Missouri last year, I graciously accepted it and considered it an honor. One of my main roles as the state vice president is to secure and oversee meeting spaces for our quarterly state cabinet meetings and our annual convention. This involves booking hotels and convention spaces years in advance to make sure we have proper accommodations in place.
Recently, I’ve been attempting to nail down contracts for convention locations and hotel rooms through the years 2020 and 2021. The Holiday Inn, just East of Columbia, Missouri, has always been a great, central location for our quarterly state cabinet meetings and it’s a fairly newer hotel with adequate meeting rooms. We’ve been meeting there for the last five years mainly because they are so easy to work with, the rooms are nice, it’s reasonably priced, and you can get there in about two to three hours from just about anywhere in the state.
If you’ve never been involved in booking hotel ballrooms or convention space like this, you typically need to book it a few years in advance. This last week, I spoke with the sales staff at the Holiday Inn East and inquired about locking down contracts for their ballroom space in 2020 and 2021.
In talking to the person in charge of sales, I was informed that the hotel has recently changed their policy. They’re not booking their meeting space more than one year in advance. I’ve had several discussions with sales managers, and various other people, asking if we can simply secure the space and then discuss costs next year, but they won’t even accommodate that request. I told the general manager, “At this point, you leave me no choice but to call other hotels in the area and take our business elsewhere.” It’s sad because we really like their hotel, but we plan these events years in advance and I can’t take the chance the rooms won’t be available.
Another mediocre customer service company came to my attention recently because I overheard my team member, Elizabeth Gilbert complaining about the “Send Out Cards” website. A few years ago, we started using Send Out Cards because they allow us to order a specialty box of brownies and ship it to our customers with a little card inside. We use these when someone refers their friends, family, co-workers or neighbors to us.
Elizabeth told me, “I love the product, but they make it almost impossible to order online. Their website is antiquated and requires too many clicks, and keeps dropping me in the middle of an order so I have to start over. I asked her, “Well, what alternatives do we have?” A very quick online search uncovered another company called Fairytale Brownies. This company specializes in baking and shipping gourmet brownies all over the world. That’s all they do and that’s likely why they chose the domain name https://www.brownies.com.
Just to make sure their brownies were really as good as the website says they are, I felt it my obligation to order a couple different boxes and taste test them. It’s a tough job, taste testing brownies, but that’s how much we love our clients.
As it turns out, Fairytale Brownies are truly spectacular. Also, their website is super easy to navigate and order from. Like Send Out Cards, they will even put a custom note in the box and they have many more options available to us. We definitely found a much better option.
My last company story is my own personal bank. I go back and forth with this one all the time. I’m frustrated because of their antiquated online banking site. I hate their quirky debit card rules. They changed their banking hours last year and not all branches are open at the same times. I could go on and on, but I guess my pain hasn’t reached a pinnacle level yet. The hassle of shutting down all my automated payments and starting over again with a new bank is too emotionally painful, so I continue to put up with it. I’m sure one day I’ll finally snap and make the switch, but today I’ll just continue to be frustrated.
The moral of these stories is clear. As humans, most of us will continue to spend our money with mediocre companies because of ease, location, or because we like their products. One day though, if not provided enough customer service, we’ll finally say, “ENOUGH!” and choose to spend our money elsewhere.
As the saying goes, “If you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will.”