Sunday, October 24, 2010

High Five

Have you noticed the recent development in customer service?  I’m sure you have heard something like this:

“You might get a phone call asking you about your satisfaction with our service today.  Is there any reason you can’t give me the highest score of 5?”

There are other versions of that conversation, some referring you to the web to complete a survey, some asking you three different ways if they answered all your questions and then asking if there is anything else they can do for you, explaining you might be surveyed.

I have known for some time that this was common practice with a few service related companies but it is expanding rapidly.  Companies implement these ratings in order to improve the service to customers.  They believe it allows them to give employees incentives to do better and to discipline or “weed out” employees that are not performing up to expectations.  In theory, I would support that and I have seen it work.

I used to hate dealing with a certain cell phone carrier.  The customer service in store and on the phone was horrible and I was considering terminating my contract for that reason alone.  I complained to a family member that works for the company and he shared with me that they had started a rating system as described above.  The kicker . . . if they receive less than a 5 on a customer survey, they fail.  If they fail a certain number of times, they are terminated.  And their plan worked.  I no longer dread my interactions with employees in the store or on the phone and I have happily stayed with the company.

But there are many companies using this plan now and I have begun to dread the questions at the end of every interaction where they explain the survey.  I call it the Can You Give Me A Five? conversation.  It drives me crazy.

A few weeks ago I was in Atlanta opening a bank account with my daughter.  The woman that helped us was completely competent and did her job.  Her interactions were awkward at best and she seemed a little stressed.  She was friendly but just seemed naturally awkward or uncomfortable talking to people.  At the end of our time, she shared the following:

“You may receive a phone call asking about how I handled your business.  If you don’t give me a 5, I fail.”

I was surprised she phrased it that way.  Again, she was kind of awkward.  I said something like “Wow, that’s harsh”.  She went on to explain their system and that if they receive 2 fails, they are terminated.  She shared that they get the results once a week on Fridays and that one of the girls in the office gets physically ill on Thursday nights, worried about how she will do.  She asked if we were happy with the way she handled our business.  What the heck was I supposed to say at that point?  I just said “Yes”.

My issue with this whole thing is the fact that I never give the highest or lowest scores on surveys unless I really feel it’s warranted.  I must be terribly impressed or unimpressed to give those ratings.

I think this puts the employee and the customer in such an awkward and unfair position.  Companies are putting employees in the position to ask for the highest rating.  But what if I feel, although they did nothing wrong whatsoever, they don’t deserve it because it was not exceptional?  The companies are putting me in the position of deciding whether or not that employee should keep their job.  As a result, the survey is not effective if people are not rating service accurately and it becomes worthless.

A customer’s rating isn’t always about how the job is done.  It could be about the way an employee looks, what country they are from, what kind of mood the customer is in, or some other uncontrollable factor on which people base their opinions of others.

I would not have given the woman at the bank a 5.  As I said, it was awkward but she adequately did the job so I would probably have given her a 3 or 4.  I would have hoped that her supervisors could coach her into feeling more comfortable with people but it may just be a personality trait that cannot be changed.  But it would not have, in any way, caused me to not return to that bank.  In fact, if not for her explanation of the survey, I would have completely forgotten the interaction with her that day.  And I would have returned to that bank and branch as I needed to as a loyal customer.

What do you think about this practice?
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Sunday, October 10, 2010

In My Own Company

Today was 10/10/10 and I wanted to document my day in photos.  I didn't really have anything planned and that sometimes leads to sitting in my big pink chair watching shows from last week on the DVR.  Now what kind of interesting photos can you take from your chair, right?

The day started quietly with coffee and preparation for a training I have to do on Monday.   It was quiet in my house, the windows were open and a cool breeze was coming through.  I considered what I would be having for breakfast and decided today was a good day to head downtown to one of my favorite restaurants for brunch.  I thought about waking up my son to see if he wanted to go but he had only been asleep for a few hours, being 24 years old and all.  I thought about calling friends but then decided that today was a good day for me to spend with me.

I dressed and threw on some makeup, grabbed my camera and headed down to Market Square, one of my favorite areas of Knoxville, the site of The Tomato Head.  The Tomato Head is a funky little restaurant that has gained a huge following with their support of local farmers and business and their amazing food.  They have vegetarian, vegan, and meat options, a wonderful weekend brunch and great pizzas.  They recently expanded their brunch menu and, after seeing the options online, I couldn't wait to try it out.  Today was the day.

I had the Biscuits and Gravy which was actually a split biscuit topped with scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, Benton's bacon, and homemade gravy over all.  I am not normally a fan of gravy on top of eggs but this was one of the best dishes I have had in a while.  I seriously considered licking the plate. I could have eaten another order but my waistline would not have been happy with me.

After brunch I hung out in Market Square for a while, enjoying the beautiful weather and taking a few photos.  I love our downtown and have considered selling my house and moving to one of the many loft/condos that have been going into renovated buildings all over the downtown area.  It would be crazy for me to do that right now as I only have about 7 years until my house is paid off but I really do love the renaissance of downtown Knoxville and the options that are available.

One of my favorite stores, Abode, in Market Square is going to be closing so I headed there to check out the sales but didn't buy anything.  I walked through Krutch Park over to Gay Street and decided to kill some time before going to a movie by enjoying some coffee outside one of the cafes and chose The Downtown Grind.  They have small tables on the sidewalk with little vases of fresh flowers on each table.  I enjoyed a Hazelnut Latte and enjoyed eavesdropping on conversations of all the people taking the tour of all the downtown living options.  Hmmmmmmm, do I really want to go to a movie or wouldn't I just love to take a tour of the downtown lofts, homes, and condos?  I decided against the tour, fearing I might make an impulse buy and would then need to move my furniture.

I finished my coffee and walked down to the theater to purchase my ticket for "The Social Network", the movie about the creation of Facebook.  I am amazed that I still spend the money on a movie and popcorn in a theater.  The matinee ticket was $7.50 and the popcorn and bottled water I got inside was $11.75.  Why, why, why do I do that?  It's not like I can't wait until the movie comes out on DVD and I certainly don't need the popcorn.  But I have always loved watching movies in the theater.  And I just can't watch a movie in a theater without that hot, salty movie theater popcorn.  It's like a drug.  The movie was good and I would recommend it, especially if you are a Facebook user.

I realized when I got home that I had spent the whole day by myself.  I had not spoken more than probably 30 words today and all of them were said in ordering food, drinks, or tickets.  But I enjoyed my day to myself, taking photos, enjoying the city in which I live.

It was a good day.
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