There ought to be a law — customer disservice

In the last week, I’ve encountered three situations that have totally ignored the customer having a positive experience. Each one is an example of someone just doing what they have been told, without any thinking through of the implications for the customer.

1) While waiting to board a computer plane, the agent announced all passengers should exit the gate and wait on the tarmac. So 50 of us were herded out in 90-degree weather to be buffeted by the jet spray of our incoming plane, wait for the passengers to deplane, watch the pilots do their pre-fight check and the ground personnel to clean the plane. After 20 minutes in the hot sun, we were then allowed to cross the steaming tarmac to board.

Why couldn’t we have sat comfortably in the air-conditioned waiting room while the plane landed, passengers disembarked, and the plane was checked and cleaned? It would have been a lot more comfortable, and we could have had another 20 minutes of productive time working or reading.

2) I received a letter regarding my AmEx merchant account telling me one of my customers had reported fraudulent charges on her account. Her charge to us would be deducted from my account unless I could dig up proof of her purchase and fax it back to them. However, they included a list of every charge on her bill during the challenged time and she had to mark “I take responsibility for this charge” or “This is a fraudulent charge” on each item. She had marked the charge for my item as the former. Yet I had to prove the charge or I would be docked the payment.

Why should I have to waste my time proving something she takes responsibility for? After calling AmEx they said there was no way around this. Is this stupid, or what?

3) I arrived as instructed at 11:15 for my 11:30 doctor appointment. The pre-exam paperwork took less than one minute, but that is the reason they asked me to appear early. At 11:45 I was called by the medical assistant to take blood pressure, temperature and weight. I was shown to the exam room, told to disrobe and put on those skimpy paper covers. At 12:15 the doctor appeared.

Why should a patient be kept waiting for 30 minutes essentially naked? Couldn’t the MA take the vitals, then put the patient in the exam room, but told not to get undressed until closer to when the doctor is ready? I know doctors have tight schedules and can’t wait for patients to undress, but couldn’t she let the MA know when she was finishing up with the previous patient so the new patient can be informed to disrobe now?

All of these examples are of procedures designed for the company, not for the customer. As people get fed up with being treated like cattle, they will take their business elsewhere, to those who show some modicum of care about the customer experience.

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2 Comments on “There ought to be a law — customer disservice”

  1. Your letter from AmEX reminds me of one I got from State Farm this week. State Farm has handled all my household insurance for twenty years, and I have never missed a payment. Unfortunately, the post office failed to deliver a monthly bill recently. The letter from State Farm notifying me of this said they would no longer carry my account unless I paid every month. Having paid for about 240 consecutive months, I was appalled that my account might be canceled because of one mishap. Like you, I wonder sometimes, “Why can’t companies understand the impact of their thoughtless actions?” To close the story, I went to my agent with the letter. He, too, disliked the treatment given to a longtime, responsible customer. He made sure the home office personnel recognized my two decades of loyalty and fiscal responsibility.

  2. I completely agree. I’ve recently started consulting (self-employed), and it has sensitized me to things like this, which now leap out at me. I’m collecting some dos and don’ts, including:

    o never be rude, and loose the attitude – there are some places that seem to have a “prove you’re worthy” attitude. not helpful!
    o anticipate/infer customer needs – don’t make them sweat or even ask
    o don’t say “It’s not our fault” (even if it isn’t). much better: “We’re sorry” and “We’ll take care of you – Don’t worry!”
    o *listen* to your customer – if you’re talking, it means they’re not, so how can you help?
    o finally, leave them with a “wow, that was great” feeling

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