Friday, February 10, 2006

Customer Service

I began my day early (for me) at the Coffee Plantation, about 9:15 AM. I'm going to sit for an interview later today with Tom Forsythe and Michael Suib for an upcoming edition of KeysCast, Podcasts for the Florida Keys. I had an appointment to do some computer work for Lisa this afternoon, but we postponed it by mutual agreement. Lisa arranges tours of Tuscany, with an emphasis on food and dining, for small groups of people who have that interest. Her sister in Massachusetts gave her an older IBM (brand) desktop. So far we've got it set up, added some memory, got connected to the internet via Comcast high-speed cable. Now we're going to get Lisa comfortable with the applications that she needs to use, and begin putting together a web site for her business.

Anyway, I had to bring Bubba's iBook to the Mail Stop, a DHL pick-up location on Duval St. and, since I had the car, I decided to also drive to Advance Auto Parts on Flagler Ave. to get a replacement directional signal lamp. In both places, I was under-whelmed with the customer service I received. The guy at the Mail Stop was inattentive as he was helping a gaggle of people print and collate a bunch of stuff for a sales meeting they were conducting later in the day. I understood him being preoccupied, but I felt like he might have been a little more welcoming.

At Advance Auto Parts, I found the bulbs I needed immediately, then waited ten minutes in line while the one clerk behind the counter carried on a long conversation in Spanish with three guys. The store manager was on the floor chatting with someone. He eventually returned to the counter and to the register. There were two in front of me. Again, a conversation in Spanish, and minutes more waiting.

A couple of weeks ago, I sought out the manager of our local CVS store on Truman Avenue, to tell him that I was impressed by some of the newer people he has hired. They smiled more, were friendlier and more helpful.

Mongo was in this morning. We were talking about customer service, and he observed that any customer service position is a performance, and that the aggregate of all performances was what makes for good or bad customer service in that establishment. Mongo pointed out that nearly every small service business -- Dunkin Donuts, gas stations, convenience stores, et al. -- have tip jars on the counter. It's pay for performance at the most elemental level. Get good service, drop a tip in the jar. Bad service, just walk away. If more clerks recognized that, two things would happen; happier customers and bigger tips. Win-win. The best kind of solution.

Tom Forsyth is here now and has captured the small table by the window for our interview. I'll let you know when it's up.

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