What Happened To Simple Customer Service?

Repeatedly in the past few days, I’ve been amazed at the lack of simple customer service skills that I’ve encountered. I don’t mean that silly ‘the customer is always right’ mantra, but rather the idea that you should simply serve your customer in a way that would make them want to visit you again. It’s not really complicated, nor does it always require you to bend over backwards, and yet the art is completely lost, apparently.

We’ll start small. Yesterday I visited a local Burger King on my lunch break because, well, Burger King has *the* best chicken sandwiches, in my opinion. I drove a few miles out of my way to go there, but figured it was worth it. When I got there, I was one of about 4 other customers, the rest of whom had already been served. You can see how empty this place was in the photo. I asked for the Bacon Cheddar Ranch Tendercrisp chicken sandwich meal, which apparently they don’t offer anymore – only a regular Tendercrisp chicken sandwich meal.

Burger King

Luckily, the girl behind the register smartly said, ‘would you like to add cheese and bacon on?’ Absolutely (it’s an extra charge). After she had rang the order, she remembered the Ranch, and asked if I’d like that instead of mayonnaise. I said yes, and she smartly slid over to the line and asked the employee there to use ranch instead of mayo. I could hear the entire conversation, which went something like this:

Cashier: Hey, on that tendercrisp, he wants ranch instead of mayo

Sandwich Builder: what? (it’s dead quiet in this place)

Cashier: the tendercrisp – put ranch instead of mayo

Sandwich Builder: we don’t have ranch back here

Cashier: just use a few of those little plastic tubs or whatever

Sandwich Builder: I’ll make it plain, just give him a few of those tubs

So the cashier reluctantly slid a few little plastic tubs of Ranch dressing across the counter to me. I kid you not. If they were busy, I could be a bit more forgiving, but they weren’t.

Such a simple request, an easy opportunity to blow me away with service, completely wasted. As most of you know, Mrs. Guru and I recently bought a house. For some insane reason, we chose to use Bank of America for our home loan. I’ve personally never had a good experience with them, but their home loan office came highly recommended from a good source, so I figured I’d give them a chance. On Sept 11, the seller accepted our bid and we executed the contract, with a proposed closing date of Oct 13. Our loan officer, Crystal, was mildly helpful, keeping in touch and updating us on the appraisal and whatnot. They initially came back with a list of conditions, which we met within 48 hours. (For those who don’t know, ‘conditions’ are usually just specific paperwork they want you to file, such as an extra bank statement, letter explaining something, or similar.) We were then told that the ‘processor’ was working on all this, and then that it was sent to the underwriting department. Of course, we missed the Oct 13 closing date, and rescheduled for Oct 19.

When we missed our October 19 closing, we were told first that they were only waiting on our employment verifications to come through. Once those did (after *I* called our HR departments), we were informed that we were waiting for our residency verification (which hadn’t been mentioned earlier). So, again, *I* called our previous apartment complex and confirmed that they had faxed the confirmation back. That done, we then learned that they were waiting on our social security verifications, which inexplicably hadn’t been submitted until Tuesday, whereas the other verification requests were sent out the previous Friday. When the social security verification came back, it was discovered that I had accidentally neglected to file my wife’s W-2s on our 2008 taxes. Fun stuff.

When we discovered this, we raced to file a 1040x, and after speaking with the the branch manager of the Bank of America home loans office, we overnighted our paperwork down to Austin, so it could be filed asap. The branch manager, Anthony, neglected to let us know that there is a local office in Dallas that could have stamped our forms on the spot – instead letting us know on Monday that we would need to wait until the IRS had processed our amendment. Bank of America ended up being able to use the copy of our amendment, rather than waiting for the official form (which would have taken 6-8 weeks), but they didn’t tell us that until Tuesday. After more back-and-forth, we finally closed on Friday, Oct 30. A full 49 days after we executed our contract.

What was frustrating about the service we received, though, is that we didn’t. I had to continually call or email both Crystal and her boss Anthony in order to get any status – neither would update us on the status if we left them alone. When we started missing closing dates, things got worse – so bad, in fact, that we ended up dealing exclusively with Anthony, because Crystal was so inept at communication.

At one point, I left her a voicemail on Friday morning and did not hear back from her until Monday after lunch. Another occasion, both me and my Realtor called Crystal repeatedly to get a status, and were sent to her voicemail. When my Realtor called from a different number, though, Crystal picked up on the 1st ring.

I realize we weren’t their only loan, of course. However, a simple update periodically and at least *pretending* to be concerned about the status of our loan would have been awesome. We got neither, unless we fought for it. We also did not receive any communications from either Anthony or Crystal after we finally closed on the house. Not a phone call, email, snail mail, nothing.

I don’t know about you, but even in this crappy economy, I will *gladly* pay a little extra to shop somewhere with great customer service. We shop at Tom Thumb in the Guru household. Their prices are a bit more expensive than Wal-Mart, but they make me feel valued. They use my reward card to get my last name, and call me Mr Cadden throughout the transaction. The few times there has been a price dispute, they fix it on the spot, without bothering for a ‘price check on aisle 2’.

Have you noticed a significant lack in customer service lately? What about an example of exceptional customer service? Are you willing to pay extra for the same products if they are delivered to you with exceptional customer service?

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