I recently read an excellent book by Scott Stratten which is basically about communication. This is a book I do actually recommend and have given away several copies already – get it here (Amazon affiliate link). It includes many stories of excellent customer service as well as some examples we wouldn’t want to follow. Unfortunately we can all add to the latter and perhaps less so of the former. But if everyone was excellent, that would be the norm and none of us would have any chance to stand out against the crowd, right?
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After moving to the Tampa Bay area I had a document to sign and return. It came to me with a pre-paid FedEx envelope so all I had to do was drop it off at a FedEx location or drop box, right? So I looked online for one, and saw some EXCELLENT news – there was one within walking distance! I clicked on the business’s link and it was confirmed in the list of that location’s services. Yey.
As I hadn’t had my daily dose of either chocolate or coffee that day, I was feeling particularly snarky and decided the walk outside would do me good. I walk and swim every non-wet day anyway, but this extra sojourn was welcomed.
The document was duly signed, sealed and my lazy afternoon walk began. Soaking up the sun was making me feel less snarky already.
I entered the strip mall store and noticed it was busy with things and two nicely uniformed young ladies. (In fact, the only man I’ve ever seen in there has been the owner. Hmm.) Two cheerful hellos bellowed throughout the store and my attention was immediately drawn to two bright white smiles. Nice. Customers are made to feel welcome, there’s a neatness about this mail/post/courier service store, and the sun is still shining upon this glorious day.
“Hi! Can I just leave this with you, please?” I held up my FedEx envelope.
“Oh, sorry, no we don’t take FedEx.”
“Oh. Really? Your website says you do.”
“Oh. Really? Let me just check with the owner – I wasn’t aware.”
It was a little annoying that there was a wait, but that was preferable to a “No” or leaving the envelope to get lost or thrown out.
Whilst on the phone the sweet service provider blushed, and I could already tell she was being put between a rock and a hard place. By now I was getting miffed and making up stories in my head about what the owner was saying. Eventually she carefully hung up.
“Sorry, sir. We don’t take FedEx packages.”
Remember my lack of coffee and chocolate was making me snarky earlier that day? It just resurfaced. I could have walked out, but I was feeling snarky. I’d been misled and wronged and wanted it righted, and it made me annoyed that the owner left it to an otherwise helpful and seemingly conscientious late-teen to deal with what might have been an irate customer.
“But your website says you take FedEx packages.”
“I know, but the owner just told me we don’t anymore.”
“OK. But I came here because your website’s list of services definitely includes FedEx.”
“Can I talk to the owner, please?”
“No, I’m afraid not.” She blushed again. Is her employer really that much of a bully? I was about to find out.
“Sorry? Didn’t you just speak to him or her?”
“Could you call them back, please?”
“We’re not allowed to let customers speak to him.”
Now I felt like an ogre that was putting this girl in an awkward position, and was just about to walk out when I realized it wasn’t me at all, but this owner. I could have left it, but… did I mention I was having a Snarky Day?
“I’m sorry you’re caught in the middle of your boss’s incompetence and my bad mood, but I would really like to speak to the owner, please.” Just at that moment a tall white haired chap appeared from the ‘back room’. Both girls blushed and immediately took a step backwards to let this Presence go wherever he wanted – right in the middle of the service counter on this occasion. Not being slow on the uptake, I looked at my nervous clerk and gently said,
“Hi. Can I leave this with you, please?”
The gentleman glanced directly at my FedEx envelope and answered on behalf of the clerk I was speaking to, “No. We don’t take FedEx.”
“Oh. Sorry, but your website says you do.”
(I’m thinking, who’s the “we” in this?)
“But your website says you do.”
“This is a UPS store.”
“Uh-huh. But your website says you take FedEx, too. ”
“And United States Postal Service.”
“Yes, we do.”
“But not FedEx.”
“Even though your website says you do.”
“But your website says you do.” I winked at the clerk who was both blushing (still) and kinda giggling.
“That was probably from when we were a Mailroom Plus store about five years ago.”
“OK. But I came here because your website says you take FedEx.” (See? I’m not slow – I recognize an excuse when I’m thumped with one.)
“We don’t. Is there something else I can help you with?” At this point there was actually eye contact because the owner had finished taping a small box.
“Well, you haven’t helped me at all so far, but do you know where I can take my FedEx package?”
“No.” I guess I asked for that one.
“Is there a drop box around here, or another store?”
“I don’t know.”
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? This chap has been in the mail/courier business in this location for at least five years and doesn’t know where there’s a FedEx drop off location?
“Thank you,” I smiled to the clerk. She smiled back and I walked out.
At which point a FedEx truck drove up to the store front and the driver jumped out with an envelope. When he came out of the store empty handed I asked if he would kindly take my envelope. “Sure!” he said, and scanned it straight away. I asked if he knew of a drop off location nearby and he said,
“Well, sometimes this guy will take them but when he doesn’t, there’s a Mailboxes Etc store in the strip mall about 1/2 a mile away.”
To me, that bitter old store owner who appears to bully his staff is delivering truly inconsistent un-doctored deeply-rooted medal-worthy Unawesome service. A perfect example of how not to earn new business or keep the customers you do have. At least I can drop off my UPS and USPS pre-labeled pre-paid mail within walking distance, and I don’t have to give him any of my money.