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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 25, 2006 12:44 PM. The previous post in this blog was What kind of person.... The next post in this blog is Mom found out. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

How to destroy business goodwill with one sentence

When the customer asks you a question relating to a problem with the goods and services you provide, say, "I have no idea."

Comments (1)

My second (least) favorite response is the one I call "the process answer".

It's where I ask a direct question, like "Where is my laptop?" (when I'm coming in to pick it up after a repair)...

and the sales person gives me a lesson in how "the process" works, e.g., "Well, first we send it off to the repair depot, and then they order the parts, and repair it, and send it back to us, which usually takes 5-7 business days, blah, blah, blah."

They don't even check anything! They just rattle off "the process" like it's supposed to make me feel better! No, I want to know where it is. That's why I asked, "Where is it?" Please go find out. I'll wait right here.

Posted by: Brian at August 25, 2006 01:09 PM

I have a business pet peeve of a related nature. At what point in the past twenty-five years did it become the practice for a sales clerk NOT to say "thank you" after a sales is concluded? Lately I've gotten a "there ya go" as my change is handed to me, other times, there was the occasional "okay" as my receipt is given to me. Oh, there was also the quip, "have a good day," but rarely a "thank you."

Is my geezerhood coming to the surface? What's wrong with a simple "thank you" to the customer? Is it not the customers and their sales that pay the salaries and the building rent?

Alas, I'll slink back into Geezitude!

--oregbear in buckman--

Posted by: oregbear at August 25, 2006 02:07 PM

I find that when I say thank you to a service/counter person, their response is "no problem."

Posted by: stephen at August 25, 2006 02:13 PM

I am only irked by "I have no idea" if it's not followed up with an enthusiastic "But I'll find out for you!"

I work in customer service and I appreciate honesty from my customers and I know they appreciate it from me.

Posted by: punkin dunkin at August 25, 2006 03:45 PM

My pet peeve is when a cashier gives me my change by first putting the bills into my hand and then piling the coins on top. Since my wallet is in my other hand, there's no easy way to put the bills away without first setting down the wallet & putting the coins in my pocket.

Give me the coins first, so I can grip them in my hand while I put the bills into my wallet!! I guess it's just not part of cashier training nowadays.

Of course many cashiers don't have the ability to add/subtract numbers, either. Just think about the last time you gave someone a $20 bill and they accidently entered $200 on the register -- more often than not, it's total confusion time (and more than once they've had to call a manager over to sort it out). It's simple math!

Posted by: Sam at August 25, 2006 04:03 PM

Yes, but where was your goodwill destroyed Jack?

Posted by: anony at August 25, 2006 04:50 PM

New Seasons Markets = Customer Service that will restore your faith in humanity

Posted by: TKrueg at August 25, 2006 05:15 PM

Not to pick a fight or anything but how many of you have actually worked in the service industry? Try spending some time on the other side of the counter for eight hours a day in exchange for low wages. Add to that student loan payments and the fact that you may have spent four or more years in college trying to avoid landing a "career" like this. Your sunny disposition and high customer service standards will quickly be crushed under the weight of equally incompetent, often cruel customers and your employer's complete indifference to proper training.

That's not to say that service industry folk should have full license to treat customers like dirt. Still, you have to understand that many of us are poorly trained, poorly paid and being baby-sat by lethargic management. Good customer service begins at a higher level. Don't blame the drone you dealt with, Jack, blame his manager.

Posted by: Semi-anonymous service industry drone at August 25, 2006 05:36 PM

just trying to allocate their section 197 intangible to the general public.

Posted by: Rod at August 25, 2006 05:40 PM

The drones I've been hearing "I have no idea" from lately just happen to have been female. I blame both them and their managers.

Posted by: Jack Bog at August 25, 2006 06:03 PM

What percentage do you generally tip at, Jack? 10%? 15%? 25%+?

Posted by: Nathan Conrad at August 25, 2006 07:26 PM


Completing the sentence with

..But I will find out.

Can change that tone quickly, I worked my way through college working as a drone in a store, and got stuck covering department where I honestly had no idea, but got on the phone or found a manager to help.

Posted by: Swimmer at August 25, 2006 07:36 PM

What percentage do you generally tip at, Jack? 10%? 15%? 25%+?

The people I'm complaining about here did not do business with me in contexts that allow tipping. When the context calls for a tip, I always give at least 15%. Today I tipped a cabbie $5.50 on a $24.50 fare -- I think that's around 23%.

It ain't me -- customer service is going downhill.

I've gotten used to "No problem," even though to me it's kind of boastful or condescending -- as if to say "I can handle anything," or "You had better not inconvenience me, but in this case, fortunately you didn't." It's just a generational thing. The kids who say "No problem" actually think they're being polite.

But "I have no idea" demonstrates that they resent being asked. The least they could do is tone it down to a polite "I don't know," or "There is no way for me to see that with the information I've been given." "I have no idea" clearly connotes, "You shouldn't have asked me, idiot."

Posted by: Jack Bog at August 25, 2006 08:00 PM

I agree with you, Jack. Service is less and less a part of the service sector. Everything (including knowledge) is being centralized, warehoused, documented, and brought into compliance with HIPPA, identity protection, and political correctness. The notion of "thanking the customer" is as passe as a gas station attendant who washes your windshield.

But there are notable exceptions:

Les Schwab (they literally come running out to meet you)...

Nordstrom (I've taken back clothing that we bought two years ago, without a receipt, and they smile and seem genuinely happy to process the return)

Burgerville (treat my kid like he's the bosses grandson)...And he's not. Bye, bye, Wendy's!

Three Square Grill (Hillsdale): never have they refused to substitute or modify an entree, everything is homemade, and they don't roll their eyes when my two year old makes a mess. THANK YOU, Barbara!

My two favorite gas stations (they generally ask if they can wash my windshield, or they just do it without asking). The upside: I drive past several "cheaper" stations without feeling guilty...rewarding great service is a pleasure.

As for the bottom of the heap:

Fry's Computers: they treat you like a criminal every time you bring a product back. I'm just waiting for them to pull out the x-ray machine at the exit, or for somebody to shout "cavity search!"

Posted by: Mister Tee at August 25, 2006 10:08 PM

I have not been to Three Square, but I'm lucky enough to know firsthand that your other observations are spot-on. Particularly Schwab and Burgerville. They help make this the great place that it is.

Posted by: Jack Bog at August 25, 2006 10:16 PM

Mister Tee,

Fry's Computers -- I consumed nearly 30 minutes of a sales supervisor's time Yesterday. I went there for a refurb "deal" on a laser printer. I took his advice on upgrading, based on his expression of experience with customer returns between the two competing choices (among other reasons and his product knowledge). I did want duplexing capability in any event (that is, no one can make me buy something that I do not want anyway, even if it might involve a little prodding). Could it have been construed as a bait and switch? Hum?

I instead said: Thank you for helping me get the better printer. (I know he is unlikely to have ever heard that before.)

Maybe he himself did not want yet another return, on that darned refurb "deal." I have taken a bad motherboard back in the past for exchange and they did a full diagnostics to confirm that it was indeed bad -- so I know the drill you speak of.

Try graciously accepting a dinner out with a family for helping put buyer and seller together on a home some day. It is good for the soul, I suppose. Maybe I am just a wimp.

Posted by: Ron Ledbury at August 26, 2006 09:32 AM

As soon as i find a Les Schwab with a competent brake and front end tech, i'll be impressed by the running out to serve me.

Posted by: pril at August 26, 2006 01:44 PM

Pril: It's called Les Schwab TIRES...

Not Les Schwab Front end and brakes!

If you buy the Weight Watchers donuts, they taste nothing like Krispy Kreme.

Posted by: Mister Tee at August 27, 2006 03:09 AM

Mister Tee- Well, then, they shouldn't be claiming to do them, should they? And perhaps take the alignment racks and brake lathes out of all their shops.

Krispy Kreme donuts are overrated and icky. I make my own. Can't imagine how bad a Weight Watcher's donut might be.

Posted by: pril at August 27, 2006 07:47 AM

I've been to the Jeep dealer for new brake pads AND ROTORS, every 10k miles for the last 4 years.

They paid for the first two sets, but now I see there is a class action lawsuit against DaimlerChrysler for defective brake rotors.

I have a colleague who got a bad alignment at Les Schwab: 5,000 miles later, they fixed the problem and gave him two new tires: FREE.

PRIL: I assume you told a manager that you were unhappy with their work? They usually go out of their way to make sure you are satisfied with the outcome

Posted by: Mister Tee at August 27, 2006 08:20 AM

Re: Les Schwab - Always ask them to hand-torque your lugnuts, and don't listen when they say that they have torque settings on their impact wrenches. I know 3 people who have had lugs shear off from being overtightened at Schwabs. One was particulary scary when my friend discovered all but one had sheared.... and we had been driving along sheer cliffs on gravel forest service roads. Another time I had them rebuild the entire front end of my truck. And somehow during the steering alignment phase, they missed the fact that my steering box was loosening from the frame. A few days later things got squirrely as I was going through the Terwilliger Curves. I pulled over and discovered I was VERY close to the whole unit just coming off completely. That would have gotten ugly.

Love their service, but I don't go back anymore...

Posted by: Larry at August 28, 2006 08:14 AM

[Posted as indicated; restored later.]


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