Dec 29, 2011

Customer Service: Get It Together

I can talk about this because if there is one person that knows about customer service, it's this girl. Trust -- I've had my "shut down" moments, meaning where a client or customer has treated me so offensively or has asked maybe the most idiotic question known to man, that I essentially "shut down" the smile and dance routine I usually perform, turn off all the smiles and apologies and just be REAL with these people.

I know this is a line many of you don't cross, however can relate to, because you've wanted to do it. I think you can perform great customer service, be real with each other AND get the respect you deserve, without people bulldozing over you or thinking you're an evil troll. It's a thin line, my friends.

I managed a salon while in college, moved to LA, managed another salon; coordinated a hair salon, then moved into office services at the PR firm I worked at. Luckily, at the PR firm, I was able to work events and get the network I needed (love them!), but dealing with people on a daily basis can be trying and disappointing. Especially working in Beverly Hills, namely at cosmetic institutions. You realize a dollar is worth essentially nothing to most people, and they don't care if they treat you like dirt. There was more than one occasion at the salon I worked at (on Melrose Place) where some old debutaunte would roll in with her endless loads of cash, talk to me like I was a dog (because I was blonde, young and said "y'all") and I would in turn be stern, unfriendly and pretty much get the job done -- to my boss' and the client's expectations -- but not be happy about it. My coworkers always got a kick out of it, but I didn't do it to be an ass or to make things uncomfortable. I did it to humanize these people!

Now most of you are probably wondering how I kept these jobs if my pride got the best of me. Here's the deal: the customer isn't always right. The goal is to make them believe so; if they second guess you, you resign from your own knowledge and/or training and let the customer do what they believe is correct. 100% of the time it won't work out or be right in the slightest, they'll need your help, and you'll be the one who will essentially be saying "I told you so."

I remember a specific incident particularly -- I was checking a color client out and she was questioning the price. I explained everything in a calm, happy manner -- to which she got snappy, made a comment similar to "what do you know?" and asked to see the manager. I obliged, got my boss, and it turns out the client was (always) wrong about what services she thought she received and what she actually received. She made me look like an idiot in front of several other clients, which I wasn't too thrilled about, so once we settled everything I robotically checked her out, handed her products to her without a peep. The best part is she actually apologized because she could tell I was disgruntled.

Sometimes, the customers need a reality check. That was my own personal way of demanding respect. I am friendly to a fault and compassionate out the wazoo -- but you don't get to talk to me however you want and expect me to be all buddy buddy with you and hug you out the door. I mean, I might hug you, but I'll kick you on the way out (in the most southern, charming way possible).

Anyway, LONGEST STORY EVER short: I love reading about customer service crisis'. I read about them initially siding with the employer (a lot of customers are idiotic) but always end up cheering on the customer because these managers missed the course in Management 101 on how to properly and effectively run a business. Oh, and how to not REPLY ALL!

I have a few cases and points:

- Last night. JBlack's in Austin. We (Emily and I) have rounded the block and are waiting with our flashers on for valet. A parking attendant comes up and tells us we can't park there; we tell him we're valeting. He threatens to write us a ticket. We round the block again, pull back up to JBlack's and see an attendant in a yellow safety jacket getting out of a car, so we're eager to pull up and a get valeted. Listen: WE KNOW HOW VALET WORKS. We live in Los Angeles for God's sake. We practically invented valet, given there are no meters in a 100 mile radius that aren't two hours or less and there isn't a parking lot until you hit Pasadena. We pull up and this happens:

"Can we valet?" (to attendant)
"Um, there's a parking spot up across the street on the left."
"Yeah... but aren't you the valet? We pulled up here earlier but the parking officer told us we couldn't wait for you."
"Yeah, I mean, I'm dealing with him too. I don't know what to tell you."
"Okay, but we are asking -- do you guys provide VALET?"
"Look, I'm busy, so put your two pretty little heads together and figure it out. I don't know what to tell you."

After screaming some obscenities and driving away, we could't believe what just happened. Here's what needed to happen:

"Can we valet?"
"No mam, we're all full, sorry for the inconvenience, but there's parking up the street on the left."
"Thanks!"

Instead, we are a) belittled, b) still wondering is JBlack's provides valet, c) wondering if the attendant knew that his SOLE JOB was to take our money (!!!!!!) and park the car!!!!!

- Slate PR published this on their Twitter feed and I just about died. Read about Ocean Marketing and their ignoramus manager (linked). Then, read what another site found out about his fraudulent email tactics and steroid use here.

- I hate to even bring this one up, but I have to because I am experiencing endless problems with them myself. Brandlink Communications is a PR firm that I first starting working with as an upcoming beauty writer. Loved the girls that worked there (they've since left -- thank Jesus!) but lately things have been just terrible on their end... I.E. sending me emails asking me to publish stories that have nothing to do with beauty, cutting and pasting emails to someone else and not changing the name or publications they worked for, and generally having zero understanding of how A) bloggers work and B) Examiner works. I received an email on 11/30 asking me to include one of their clients in an article about the VS Fashion Show, with the story linked in the email. I would have obliged, except I didn't write the article. It was the Atlanta Fashion Examiner's article and I clearly have no relation or connection to Atlanta or fashion. I wrote back telling the account manager that the email must have a been sent to the wrong person. We ended up going back and forth with her explaining what she was really trying to do (which I'm going to call BS on) and me refuting every point she tried to make.

Anyway, I hope they try a little harder when it comes to blog outreach because I actually like the people that work there. However, Brandlink became a Twitter Trending Topic thanks to this entire blog war that went on between Brandlink's VP and TheBloggess.com.

So that's a decent 30 to 45 minutes of reading for you. Enjoy!





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