As you know, I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions or declare 2014 to be my year to do anything. I’m just taking it as it comes, but I did start thinking about what would really make me happy this year. Big or small, what change would really be a bright spot in my somewhat chaotic life. You know what? After taking all things into account and thinking back to each and every incident last year that stood out in my mind (and not necessarily because they made me feel good), the answer was very, very clear. What I really want in 2014 is…wait for it…BETTER CUSTOMER SERVICE! Am I right? Absolutely! When I looked back at all of the countless hours – yes, HOURS! – that I had spent
yelling/arguing talking/negotiating with a customer service representative about what they should be doing for me, the customer, the answer became obvious. Good customer service is hard to come by these days. So much so that when it happens, it’s noticeable. We call our friends to tell them about it. We post about it on Facebook. We’re practically giddy because someone treated us with respect, helped us with our request/problem and acted like they appreciated our business. What’s wrong with this picture?
I have to tell you this story because it perfectly illustrates the ridiculousness that has become the state of customer service. And, you know what the worst part is? I had to actually choose a story to tell you because there were several to pick from. It’s that bad. Anyway, this story takes place in IKEA, Houston. While I am not a loyal IKEA customer, I have shopped in other locations before and my experience was pleasant. However, on this particular day Big Poppa, my sister and I had set out on a mission to find me a red, sleeper sofa for the girl’s playroom. I have a friend who has a red sofa from IKEA and I love it, so I knew that I could get the sofa from that store. Not to mention, Big Poppa had all of these budget constraints, blah, blah, blah….so I figured that IKEA was a good compromise. Upon arriving at the store, I quickly located the sofa that I wanted, along with a coffee table and this massive entertainment center that we knew we would have to pay to have assembled. It ended up being a lot more than we originally intended to purchase, but we thought that it worked well for us.
So, we went down to the warehouse, picked up and paid for our merchandise and proceeded to the counter(s) to schedule deliver and assembly. It was a long line. Like, a really long line. And, there was one person working both the delivery/assembly scheduling counter and the customer merchandise pick-up counter. I should have been concerned, but I was hopeful. That is until we started talking to people who had been waiting in that line for over 2 hours. 2 HOURS!!! Then there was the guy that had picked up his merchandise that morning only to have to return because the order wrong. He was still waiting for them to correct it. With no end in sight, I went looking for the manager because I had been there for about an hour and, well, I’m that person. If I’m unhappy, you’re going to know about it. The manager, (we’re going to call him “Dave” because I feel like I need to do that lest he read this and get pissed off and sue the hell out of me) was a very nice fellow. However, Dave seemed to be surprised that there was only one person working the counters. He apologized and said that the other employee “must be on break or something,” but as luck would have it, the other employee came walking up just as we were talking. He assured me things would get better and I turned to walk back to my seat. Just as I sat down, the original employee working the counter(s) picked up her purse and left, again leaving just one employee. I guess Dave wasn’t really on top of that whole schedule thing. I sat there for a few more minutes when my sister pointed out a computer kiosk on the opposite wall and a sign that asked “How is our service? Give us your feedback” Are you kidding me? Hours into this whole ordeal, heck yeah, I got feedback! I jumped up off the bench and marched over to the computer only to discover that, of course, it was broken.
In the meantime, Big Poppa was getting antsy. Sure, he wanted me to have my red sofa; and sure, he wanted to save money; and sure, he wanted the girls playroom to be finished, but this was starting to get under his skin. I don’t know if I’ve told you this but, he’s not real good at waiting. Just as I was about to go find my friend Dave, I noticed that he was indeed already surveying the situation and stepped in to take over. Finally! Great idea! Dave, quickly summoned my husband over to another counter to take care of our delivery and set up. By the way, my sister had fallen asleep on the bench sitting next to me. Yes, it had taken THAT long to get waited on! Finally, we are cruising through paper work with a young man that we will call “Steve” for the same reason that we are calling the manager Dave, when he asks us if we want delivery and assembly of all of the pieces. We said “yes”. He explains that he can’t guarantee that delivery and assembly can take place on the same day. So, we’re supposed to take delivery on these pieces and let it lay around until they can get there? Yep, that’s about it. We say how inconvenient this is, but okay and he completed the transaction. Then he told us that tax, delivery and set up was going to cost us in excess of $800.00. $800.00!!! Let that sink in for a moment. I guess that the looks on our faces said everything because Steve quickly flipped over a piece of paper to show us the fee schedule and then explained the various taxes and additional charges on delivery and set up. I honestly thought that Big Poppa’s head was going to explode. Usually, in situations like this where there might be some disagreement or negotiation, we usually play good cop/bad cop and I’m always the bad cop because, quite honestly, I’m really good at it. This time, however, it was more like bad cop/worse cop. A
loud rant discussion ensued about how we, as well as all of the other customers in line had waited through poor service for hours (HOURS! I just can’t!) just to be misled by the signage in the store regarding assembly fees. I just couldn’t do it anymore, so I said, “I’m done! Give me my money back!” I could see it in his face, Big Poppa was so proud of me. Steve, on the other hand, was scrambling trying to save the sale. No one was talking or moving, a hush had fallen over the area and everyone was looking in our direction. My sister was still asleep. Steve offered to wave the delivery fee but, I told him that was no good because the delivery fee was the smallest portion of the $800.00. Then he said that we could talk to the company that comes to assemble the furniture about their fees, but Big Poppa said no, he was not going to and shouldn’t have to negotiate with a third-party. Again I said I wanted my money back and again Steve stalled. Then I said some words, not all of them were, shall we say good words and the manager came over and gave me my money back. We woke my sister up and left the store as the other customers smiled at us and waved good-bye (apparently we were now rock stars). I was angry and sad, yet Big Poppa was determined that I would have my sofa and not blow the budget. So, he went back without me, of course, and purchased the sofa only, this time without assembly. Because why would you charge someone $150.00 to put on slip covers?
It’s cute and I’m very happy with it, but the thing is, you’re supposed to feel good about your experience and your purchase. You’re not supposed to leave the store feeling robbed and mistreated. Tell the truth, how many times have you, as the customer, felt like you have had a contentious experience with a person in a customer service position? I bet you all have your hands up because it happens all of the time. And it irks me. How I long for the days when there were gas station attendants and shoe sales people who actually helped you put the shoe on. When sales ladies knew just the right time to come over and ask if you need help and when to suggest other merchandise. When receptionists were cheerful and the mailman actually knew your name at least well enough to know what mail didn’t go to your house. Heck, I’ll just settle for friendly, yes, friendly people who don’t despise me because I’m a customer. Is that too much to ask for? Don’t answer that. Let me have my dream.