Honorable Customer Service

“I hate incompetence!”  I grew up hearing my dad utter those words almost daily, about anyone who failed to live up their service promise, such as:

  • the cable repair-person who hooked up the wrong receiver,
  • the grocery checkout clerk who put the eggs on the bottom of the bag,
  • the hotel reservation manager who gave away your honeymoon suite,
  • the local landscaper who chucked your favorite tree,
  • the news anchor who failed to ask the difficult question,
  • the football player with the quintillion-dollar salary who fumbled three times during the big game,
  • the politician who failed to lived up to his promises,
  • the doctor who amputated the wrong leg,
  • the carpenter who failed to properly support the roof,
  • the passport renewal agent who lost the paperwork,
  • the newspaper copy-editor who left out the rest of the obituary,
  • the toll collector who failed to calculate the proper change,
  • the list goes on, and on, and on…

Today, my daughter told me she didn’t have hot water for her shower.  When I threw in a load of towels into the wash machine an hour later, I learned that, in fact, we’d run out of propane.  In the many years that we’ve lived here, we’ve come to depend on a company whose truck would show up regularly, top off our tank, and ensure that my family’s basic needs were met.  The monthly bill would show up, and since our showers were hot, the rooms were warm, and the food was cooked, I never questioned it.

Until today, when we ran out of propane.

I called our reliable service company–they’d been bought out.  The new company never notified us of the change, nor did they ever fulfill their paid duty of filling our tank.  Incompetence.

What made matters far worse, was that their customer service department failed us.  Personally, I’m more than willing to cut someone slack, if they’re willing to admit they made a mistake, and then make amends for it.

Honorable Customer Service = Recognize + Rectify + Restore

(HCS = recognition of fault+courteous attempt to resolve problem+rendering customer satisfied)

Take any of the examples listed above, or think of your own incident, and apply the honorable customer service equation.

The world is made a far better place when:

a)  people who make promises actually keep them, or

b)  when they fail to do so, recognize it, rectify it, and restore the customer to a good place (whether rendering the original service that was promised, substituting a comparable solution, or proffering a refund.)

With all due respect to my wonderful, brilliant father who deserves nothing less than the best customer fulfillment, for me, it’s not the incompetence that burns my britches, it’s the failure to remedy the situation honorably.

Humans are fallible, and that’s okay.  But, when someone makes a promise, and fails to see it through, I believe that we should call them on it. If they further deny fulfillment of their promise, it’s time to find someone else who’ll do the right thing. 

Here are a few links for suitable remedy:

Forgive me, dear reader, for the rant, but I feel a lot better.  When I sign up my new propane company, I’ll feel even better.  Feel free to unload your rants here, too!  Without naming names, what’s your worst case of customer service that you’ve been forced to endure or observe?  How did you remedy the situation?  Do you have any uplifting cases that demonstrate Honorable Customer Service?


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