Acknowledgement Received

Sometimes it’s difficult to determine what the norm is for service in the current day.  For such a long time, I’ve been told that customer service is the differentiating factor in successful businesses.  Businesses that sell products compete on price, selection, and service.  The way I look at it, you can get anything at any time, thanks to the Internet.  Then it becomes a matter of convenience and time determining what you’re willing to pay.  And with products, service is almost an afterthought, especially in this self-service age.  But what about when the product is a service?  You’re competing on price, quality, and service.  This is the tradeoff triangle, Good/Fast/Cheap – choose any two.

The other day, I called a car dealer near my workplace for some service.  It would be more convenient for me to go there since my local dealer is farther away and I’d need to schedule for a Saturday.  Asking for the service department, the phone then rang a few times and went to voice mail.  I found this odd.  I was expecting to wait on hold for a tech to pick up.  So I left a message.  That was at 12:30.  When I left work at 4:30, I hadn’t gotten a call back.  I called again and ended up in voice mail again.

Like I said, it’s difficult to tell if this is normal, modern customer service.  Personally, I think it’s terrible.  Maybe I’m a snob, maybe I’m unrealistic.  When someone is calling you and they want to give you money – and my voice mail message listed the services I wanted, which would be a decent sized bill – you should jump on the opportunity.  Further, I am a new customer, so this is my first impression, however, I can’t think that an existing customer would feel any differently.

So what was I expecting?  I was expecting to sit on hold.  And I think at some point in the past, this would have been unacceptable for some, but I was fine with it.  Being in a phone queue is pretty normal nowadays.  If things were average, I would just sit and wait for a long time.  If the service level was better than usual, I would ring back to the receptionist, who would ask if I’d like to leave a message or keep waiting.  If the service was even better than that, the service manager would jump on, explain he was busy and ask if I’d like to wait or leave my callback info.  The key here is being acknowledged by a person.  This is why it is very quickly becoming commonplace to be greeted by the whole staff when you walk in the door.  “Welcome to Firehouse!” “Welcome to Rita’s!” “Welcome to Subway!”  It sounds hokey, but it really does work.  But for my experience, I spoke to no people and I ended up talking to a generic voicemail box.  I wasn’t even acknowledged.

It seems that a phone system upgrade could fix this issue, for me, anyway.  My suspicion is that the service dept. knows that calls get kicked to voicemail after 4 rings, so there is a lack of urgency and unless they aren’t doing anything at that moment, they’ll just wait it out.  The phone should keep ringing and not give them an opportunity to ignore a customer.

At this time, more than 24 hours has passed, so I guess they don’t want my business.

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