Customer Disservice

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Just a little rant about something that is becoming more and more common and, consequently, more annoying.

This morning I dropped into a watchmaker’s shop to see if they could replace the band on my watch. No big deal, that’s what they do. The problem starts with the watch itself. It’s a Timex Ironman watch I won a few years ago. This thing is a geek’s delight. You connect a USB cable and it syncs with your tasks, contacts and calendar. Of course, I can’t be bothered doing that because I already carry the laptop everywhere and I have a Blackberry that handles any other need. The reason I like the watch is that it makes it very easy to switch timezones when I’m travelling overseas. That and the large, easy to read digital face that is a great help to a fellow with crappy vision.

Anyhow, with the trip to Switzerland coming up, I needed the band and battery replaced. I walked into the store and the counter clerk took one look at it and said, “No we don’t have a band for it”. Fair enough. No offer to order one. No suggestion of where I might be able to find one. Just “No”.

I’ve used this same store for years and they’ve always been a family owned and operated business that prided itself on customer service. Something has changed. The gentleman who served me was not a member of the family and, somehow, the owners have failed to impart the qualities that made them successful to the new employees. They’ve lost a customer and I’ve lost another link to times when the greeting “May I help you?” actually meant more than meaningless words used to start the sales process.

In the good old days, this same store would have checked to see if they had the same watch in stock, removed the band to replace mine and made a note to order a replacement from the manufacturer. This would have been done without fanfare or extra cost. They knew that every sale was important and that a satisfied customer would come back and, more importantly, tell others of the excellent service. A little extra work on their part would reap future benefits. Now, unfortunately, the goal is to make the quick sale and avoid wasting any time. It’s worthwhile to note that there were only 2 customers in the store and I could see 3 employees.

Companies large and small are abandoning the one quality that will, at little actual cost, set them ahead of their competitors. Service. Our local Home Depot is experimenting with automated checkouts. You scan your own purchases, pay by debit or credit card and bag them – all without any interaction with a human. What’s next? Robotic shelf stocking? Success appears to be measured by the lack contact.

When did the customer become an object to be avoided?

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