Several mornings a week I grab a latte at either McDonald’s or Starbucks on the way to work. Although I prefer the taste of McDonald’s coffee, the experience there is very different from Starbucks. For example, at McDonald’s, I always have to repeat my order (small nonfat latte, hot, no syrup) to the person leaning out of the drive-thru window. Once I receive my drink, I have to get the attention of the server (who has already closed the window) to request two packets of Splenda. Then I have to ask for a stirrer and a napkin before she closes the window again. (How can someone add sweetener without stirring it?) A few times I’ve been given a vanilla latte by mistake (no thanks) or a full-fat version (ugh).
The alternative is Starbucks, which is usually more crowded but the line moves much faster. The server always greets me like we’re old friends (Good morning! What can I get started for you today?), and she’s happy to stir the Splenda into the coffee for me. My order is never botched, and she always sends me off with a “Have a great day!”
The difference here, obviously, is in the customer service. Starbucks hires and trains its employees much differently than McDonald’s. And some days this difference proves very frustrating.
While buying a latte cannot begin to compare to purchasing promotional products for a client, the element of customer service is a critical differentiator. In this issue we feature, for the first time, our picks for PPB’s 2011 Service Superheroes. These 15 individuals were nominated by their customers, peers and supervisors for delivering standout service. Read more about why they’re superheroes beginning on page 48.
When service is good, all’s well with the world. But when it’s not, look out. Here, some distributor members tell their customer service pet peeves.
Laura Forbes, MAS, Zebra Marketing Corporation
“My personal pet peeve about customer service is when the customer service representative is not trained well enough to be empowered to make a decision. Most suppliers train their CS teams very well—and I applaud those who do. But take it to the next level and permit them to make as many decisions as possible on the spot without having to receive approval from someone else.”
David J. Hawes, MAS, Geiger
2. Companies that laud their customer service and yet fail to answer when I call
3. Multiple transfers when I call
4. The notion that customer service is an event or the sole responsibility of one department
5. When I call and must repeat myself because they don’t listen.”
Bruce Felber, MAS, The Image Group
What bugs me the most is the attitude that I am disturbing them. Here are my top-four pet peeves:
“1. I ask a question and they flip through the pages of their catalog and read to me without even finding out the intent of the question.
2. I’m put on hold or am told they will get back to me. I have to call them back when I don’t hear from them after two hours.
3. I ask for a sample and then am told I must e-mail or fax the request. I’m already on the phone so why make me go through these extra steps?
4. They treat me like an idiot, as though I should be an expert on every product. That is what customer service is for—to help distributors understand so we can sell to buyers.”
Rebecca Kollmann, MAS, Adventures In Advertising Corporation
“My pet peeve is being put on hold more than once when phoning customer service because another call needs to be picked up. Once—I can understand—but more than once means that the company isn’t interested in staffing well enough to take care of its customers, all of whom are likely going through the same thing.
“My in-person pet peeve is when customer service employees have to answer a personal call during our transaction and they chit-chat, or when they have a side conversation with a co-worker. A grocery-store chain in our region really knows what great customer service is. The only time the checker and bagger have a conversation is if they somehow pull you into it, or you begin it by making a comment. You almost feel sorry to have to leave, versus being ignored or feeling you are a bother to them.
“Another pet peeve is being told by the vendor, ‘You have to do this,’ or ‘You need to do this.’ These phrases are big no-nos. I don’t have to do anything, including buy from them. I prefer to hear, ‘I’m happy to help. If you’re by your computer, let’s go online together and I’ll show you an easy way to do X for your next order.’
“Finally, it bugs me when there’s a lack of the words ‘thank you.’ For example: Thank you for calling, thank you for stopping by today, thank you for shopping with us. It drives me crazy when someone plops a bag into my car and shuts the drive- thru window.”
Gee, it seems Rebecca and I (and probably you, too) have a lot in common.