Sunday, February 24, 2013

Customer Support (or Lack Thereof)

If you are a human being who has interacted with a company, you have experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly of customer service. Until recently, customer support was one of my (many) primary job responsibilities. Honestly though, when working for a company that serves others, customer support is (and should always be) an important job responsibility. Some companies truly seem to care about their customers and will go above and beyond to ensure their happiness and satisfaction, while others seem to exist solely to frustrate you. This blog post will give a few examples of each, based upon my personal experience in the last year or so. We'll start with a few companies who've got it right! :)

THE GOOD
1-800-PET-MEDS
As many of you already know, we had a really bad tick problem several weeks back (which, I am cautiously optimistic to report, has finally been resolved...for now anyway). My dogs were both on K-9 Advantix at the time. I had just ordered another 3-6 month supply ($$) for each dog, plus heartworm meds. When I realized that K-9 Advantix wasn't working, I decided to switch to Revolution, which controls fleas, ticks AND heartworms. I contacted 1-800-PET-MEDS to see if I could at least return the packages that hadn't been opened. Not only did they offer to reimburse me for (and take back) the unopened packages (and even the opened ones) of K-9 Advantix, but they also offered to reimburse me for the unused heartworm meds. They told me that I could donate the boxes that had been opened to Golden Rescue South Florida, after I told them I had worked with them in the past. THAT was awesome.  Plus, they emailed me every few days to check on my dogs. That's what customer support is all about! A++

MUTTS AND JEFF DOG TRAINING
I first met dog trainer Jeff Nelson when we were fostering a Golden mix who absolutely did not get along with Makani. He snapped and growled at Makani all the time. Golden Rescue put me in touch with Jeff, who had just moved down from New York. I drove our foster dog to Jeff's house in Delray and left him with Jeff and his HUGE Rottweiler (feeling very guilty, as this was our first failed foster experience). That foster dog got adopted within days after spending time with Jeff.

A couple months later, Golden Rescue hooked me up with Jeff again when our new foster dog, Simona, needed a little training to learn to stop gnawing on people. This time, he came to our house. Within 10-15 minutes, Jeff had taught us the simplest, most effective, positive techniques for eliminating negative behaviors in dogs. I was completely in awe of him.

When we got Cali, I emailed him just to ask him if his techniques worked with puppies. He emailed me back, asking that I call him because he had too much information to give me in an email. I called him and he spent 20-30 minutes going over puppy training techniques with me, AND told me to contact him any time I had any questions. 

Jeff is awesome. He knows dogs and he loves them. If you ever need a dog trainer, I highly recommend that you contact Jeff Nelson. A++

OMNI HOTELS & RESORTS
I don't really consider myself a hotel snob (I don't have to stay in luxury hotels on every trip), but cleanliness, comfort and good customer service are very important to me. Whenever I plan a vacation, I research the heck out of hotels - not only looking for the best rates, but reading TripAdvisor and Expedia reviews, checking to see when the hotels were built or renovated, etc. When I started traveling for business, I decided to sign up for the loyalty programs with Hilton and Marriott. Our company's National Sales Manager, Bob, has been traveling for business for a long time, so he is very high up in both Hilton's and Marriott's rewards programs (like the Gold or Platinum Level). Since it takes many stays to rise through the rewards programs rankings, I am permanently stuck at the Dirt Level. Every time we traveled, Bob would get a room on like the 25th Floor (sometimes a room that required a special elevator), while I'd be stuck on the 6th Floor. We'd always joke about it as I got on the elevator to take me to my room on the lowly floor. That is, until I discovered the Omni Hotels & Rewards Select Guest Program.

When we attended ISTE in San Diego last summer, we booked rooms at the Omni, which was right across the street from the convention center. A few weeks before our trip, I signed up for the Select Guest Program, which is AMAZING. Not only are Omni hotels gorgeous and clean, but if you are a member of their Select Guest Program, you get perks from...not your 10th or 20th stay...but from your very FIRST stay. Benefits include complimentary laundry pressing service and shoe shine (which I've never taken advantage of), but also  free internet (which costs about $20 per day for), and (my favorite perk) morning beverage service. You just tell them what beverages you'd like and what time you'd like them delivered. It was great to have a fresh pot of coffee and a glass of orange juice delivered to my room every morning. LOVE IT!

Plus, Omni is great about fulfilling customer requests (like room time/location, etc.).  I'll probably never rise above Tin level at Hilton and Marriott, but Omni makes me feel special. Given the choice, I would stay at an Omni Hotel any time! A+

6PM.COM
If you are looking for great shoes like Vans skate shoes or Reef sandals, (or accessories, or clothing...) at fantastic prices, check out 6pm.com. Even better than the prices (and the free shipping!) is their customer service. I ordered a pair of Vans for my son. He wore them for a few days, but said they just didn't feel right. In inspecting them, we discovered that the toe area of one of the shoes had been stitched incorrectly and were pinching his toes. Since he had already worn the shoes, I figured I was S.O.L., but I thought I'd contact 6pm.com anyway. 

Not only did 6pm.com offer to take the shoes back and either exchange them for another pair or issue a full refund, they also sent me a postage paid shipping label to return the defective pair of shoes! :) A+!

Honorable Mention:
PUBLIX ON EAST ATLANTIC BOULEVARD IN POMPANO BEACH
After the dreadful experiences I've had at the Beacon Light Publix (cashiers mumbling (if they speak to you at all), eternally slow service at the deli counter, some of the ugliest cakes I've ever seen at the bakery, and package help (and I use that term very loosely) that either don't even offer to help you out with your groceries or who are overly friendly, expecting you to give them a hug (creeeeeeepy), I have go give an Honorable Mention to the newly renovated Publix in eastern Pompano Beach on Atlantic Boulevard. There have been shopping trips when no less than five employees have greeted me with a SMILE, offering to help me find what I'm looking for. Honestly, all of the employees, from the deli to the produce department to the stock clerks to the cashiers are friendly and pleasant. They really do make "shopping a pleasure". A

Now for...
THE BAD (AND THE UGLY)
HTC/Radio Shack
Ugh. :( Last June, I bought myself a new phone - an HTC EVO 3D 4G from Radio Shack online. I had problems with the phone practically from the time it arrived. It would randomly shut down and reboot itself, sometimes multiple times, sometimes in the middle of the night. Normally, I would just return it, but since I bought it online, Radio Shack could not take the phone back (or exchange it) at the store (which would mean I'd have to be without a phone for several days, maybe weeks). Then, I contacted my carrier, Virgin Mobile, who told me that I could  return the phone to a Virgin Mobile retailer and exchange it (if they carried the phone). It turned out that no Virgin Mobile stores in my area stocked that phone. So, I called the manufacturer of the phone, HTC. They seemed convinced that it was a battery issue, so they offered to send me a new battery (IF I charged $45 to my credit card, which would be reimbursed once they received my old battery). Mind you, this was after paying $300 for a brand new phone that didn't work properly. But, my other alternative was going without a phone, so I ordered the battery. New battery came. Didn't solve the problem. So, I called HTC again and asked if they would replace my phone. I was told they would not replace my phone, but if I wanted to send the phone to their repair center, they would fix it for me and return it in a few weeks. A FEW WEEKS?! Seriously? 

Needless to say, I still have a defective phone. Not only does it still shut down randomly (yesterday alone it shut down at least than seven times and rebooted twice in the middle of the night), I have TWICE completely (and mysteriously) lost my factory-installed contacts and phone dialer apps. When I called HTC, I was instructed to do a factory reset (which wipes everything out), since, if I sent it back to HTC, "that's all they would do anyway." I will never buy an HTC phone again. EVER. D


DELTA
I'm sure you've heard it - Doesn't Even Leave The Airport. OK...with this one, I'll admit, it is not entirely fair to generalize. First of all, there is no airline that I can honestly say I've had a fantastic experience with. Southwest is about the best of the bunch, as you get your first bag free, the planes tend to be newer, the flight crews tend to be friendly and they have those awesome swizzle sticks shaped like little hearts! (Come on, who doesn't love hearts?). But my latest experience with Delta has left a scar for sure. You can read all about, if you wish, it in my last blog post, by clicking here.

To give you a brief synopsis, my "On-Time" flight was 40 minutes late leaving the airport. While in flight, Delta.com informed us that we were going to miss our connection in Atlanta, so we should make alternate plans (which lead to my meltdown). Our alternative ended up being spending the night in ATL and flying out the next afternoon (IF we missed our flight). We landed 10 minutes before our connecting flight was scheduled to leave. After running "The Amazing Race" through the airport, we made our connection, but our luggage did not. After being told our bags would be delivered that night, they did not. When my bag was delivered, it was not my bag - it was Bob's.  

I tried calling Delta to complain, but couldn't get through because of "longer than normal wait times due to Winter Storm Nemo." I tried finding a customer service email address or a place to submit feedback on their website. Guess what...it doesn't exist. I wonder why? In searching the internet for customer satisfaction ratings, looks like Delta earned a 63%. Clearly, I am not the only person who feels this way about Delta. Several websites and Facebook pages have been set up by other disgruntled customers. A couple of examples include: Deltareallysucks.com and the IHateDeltaAirlines Facebook page. Given the choice, I'll stick with Southwest, thank you. I agree with the general consensus - D-
COMCAST
Image from memegenerator.net
Ugh (again). I LOATHE Comcast. We signed up for Xfinity cable/phone/internet service about five years ago when a guy came to our door and gave a great sales pitch - $99 a month for all three. It was $99 a month for a LITTLE while, but, over the course of five years, the price climbed to nearly $200 a month (for pretty much basic cable, phone and internet). Our package included no premium channels and although the internet was fast WHEN IT WAS WORKING, it went down almost daily and I would have to reboot my router to get reconnected. I called numerous times, only to be told that "they were not showing any trouble in my area, and I just needed to reboot the router." After years of this, my husband tried to call Comcast and explain our frustration, not only about the dropped internet signal, but also our rapidly rising monthly bill. They told him there was nothing they could do. So, he did some research and decided to switch to AT&T/DirecTV. 

Once we had everything set up for AT&T/DirecTV (after paying a $200 installation fee for the new modem), my husband called Comcast to cancel and THEN they asked why we didn't contact them earlier, that they could have helped get our monthly fees lowered. WHAT?!!! Grrrr. Am I any happier with AT&T/DirecTV? Not so much. I now totally get the whole Slowsky's turtle AT&T commercial. But, we are now stuck. Comcast...FAIL!

PROACTIV
This company officially gets my "Worst of the Worst" award. I don't care how bad your skin is...please take my advice and do NOT order Proactiv. Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Julianne Hough only use it because A. Money is no object for them and B. They have agents handling their affairs. If you are just an average person, stay away from this company! I ordered Proactiv for my teenage daughter to help clear up her acne. I went online and ordered the three-step program for $29.99, which didn't seem TOO bad. First of all, it took FOREVER for the products to arrive. Shortly after they did, I received a notice that my next shipment was on it's way. Excuse me...WHAT?! Seems that when you purchase Proactiv, it automatically puts you on a monthly plan. (Shame on me for not reading the fine print!)

So, I tried to cancel. This was not (or at least not what I thought) I signed up for. So, again, I went online. First, I tried to chat with somebody (no, I really don't like to pick up the phone). I started the chat, but no representatives were available. So, I tried to send them a message. You can't just email them, you have to complete a form. I typed them a lengthy email, but before I could send it, I had to type in the "captcha"...you know, the wiggly, barely legible alpha-numeric code that some sites require you to type to prove you are not a robot (as if a robot has acne????). The first five captchas I typed failed. So, I decided to click the speaker icon to hear it read aloud. HA! Have you ever done this? It sounded like a dying cat. It was completely unintelligible. After about 10 tries (and failures), I was really pissed off. So, I picked up the phone and called Proactiv.

After waiting on hold and being transferred to a couple of different people, I was finally able to speak to someone about cancelling my account. She offered to put me on the every-three-month or every-six-month plan and I told her NO! I wanted my account cancelled.

It is now three months later, and we are STILL being billed by Proactiv. There's no doubt that the stress this company causes leads to more breakouts. And, by the way, you can buy a generic alternative three-step program at Target for $14.99 - half the price with none of the commitment! Proactiv - FAIL.

If you've had exceptionally good (or bad) customer service from a company, I invite you to comment below! I'd love to hear about your experiences. Thanks for reading!

With Love and Aloha ~ Nancy




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