Customer Service: How to Get the Most Out of It

Good customer service used to be something you could count on. As things have changed over the years (standards, people, society, etc.), though, the art of good customer service is a fleeting concept.

What, exactly, is customer service? It's an expected treatment rendered by the employee of an establishment to its customer. Can you ensure that you are given quality customer service, when you seek out products and services, and if so... how? There are things you can do that will almost always guarantee you get the service you expect. Below are some of them.

Take, for instance, a simple Friday night pizza delivery. You decide on your order and proceed to make the call. You say you'd like a large pizza with thin crust, extra cheese, mushrooms and black olives. You also want a small order of hot wings and a 2-liter of Coca-Cola. The total, the employee says, comes to $23.58, and it will be about 45 minutes.

It's 6:30 when you placed the order and at 7:30p.m., you're still waiting. You decide to give it a few more minutes and, at 7:37p.m., the driver arrives with your food. What do you do? What are your choices? You could, either, A.) take the food, pay for it and say nothing, OR B.) kindly tell the driver how disappointed you are and ask him to wait, while you call the manager. I used to be the type that would've done A; however, I've learned that, if presented properly, and respectfully, I can actually turn the situation into a positive... and, still, receive the service I paid for.

Before you call the manager (to kindly "complain"), there are a few things to keep in mind. Know WHY you're calling and WHAT you want in return. This is important. Some people just call to complain, or to get free food. If you can express exactly why you're calling (i.e. cold food, pizza has wrong toppings, etc.), this will go much further in allowing the manager know the reason for the call.

Once you know WHY you're calling, also know what you want in return (i.e. refund, an exchange of food, etc.). This will give the manager an idea of how you expect to be compensated for your loss. Be reasonable in your request, though. Just because you get a cold pizza doesn't mean you can request an entire, new order. The exchange should be comparable to the item/s that were incorrect.

If you happen to get a manager that, for whatever reason, is a little less than cooperative, it's o.k. Do NOT blow up! That will never get you anywhere... just make the situation worse. Instead, politely mention that, not only was the food cold (or whatever), but the driver was also X mins. late, delivering the food. Another good tip is to ask the manager how THEY would feel if the situation happened to them. In other words... use the experience to help them understand and sympathize with your dilemma.

If all else fails, at least, request a credit for the food affected. Sometimes, when the manager won't refund or replace the food, they will give credit. If not, and you are at the end of your rope and the kids are starving, politely ask for the name of the store owner, his/her phone number and when they'll likely be in. Usually, if I'm at this point, I refuse to order from this business again... at least, for a long period of time.

Another experience I'm about to have (read on... you'll see why;), is with the store where I purchased my bread machine. I will, first, call the store (as it's quite a bit of distance from our home) and request to speak to the manager. I will describe the problem (recently purchased the bread machine at the store, got it home, took it out of the box and discovered a HUGE, deep scratch on the front of the bread machine), and wait for a suitable response. Then, I will express what, exactly, I want out of the transaction (I would, honestly, keep the machine- if it works otherwise- because I like it and, frankly, I do not want to wait long enough for them to order another machine, have it shipped to the store, then travel back to the store to pick it up... so, I'm not exactly sure, yet, what I'll do).

Once I've requested a comparable solution, I will wait for the manager to reply (hopefully, in a positive way). If I still haven't gotten anywhere, I will put the store/manager on the back burner and contact the manufacturer instead. As a loyal customer, I will most definitely get a positive resolution having taken this route; afterall, the product is the manufacturer's. Once I've come to a satisfactory resolution with the manufacturer, I will then turn my attention back to the store. I would, more than likely, go online and find the information I need to contact the store's district manager, then I would follow up with a call to him/her.

I would, simply, continue up the store's "chain of command" until something was done. Again... if no resolution could be sought, I would cross the store off my list of places to shop. I would also make sure, if asked, I told all my friends, family and anyone else I know, about my experience and why I won't go there (sometimes, it also helps to mention, to a manager, store owner, etc., that you do intend to tell everyone you know not to shop at the store, and why. Stores are in business to make money, not lose it, so- although not always a positive tactic- this may just get you the solution you desire).

The main thing you can do, in any situation where you've been "wronged," is... stay calm. There are always people above the ones you're talking to... people who are more understanding, people who do want to please the customer and people who do want you to be happy with your experience with their business, service, etc.

In the end, the responsibility for good customer service rests in the hands of the owners/managers/employees. The responsibility, however, for the outcome rests on our shoulders. Is it fair? Maybe not. However, it's the way it is, and... in order to get what we want out of our shopping experience, and the most for our money, we need to accept that this fact is unlikely to change anytime in the future.

Be kind, give respect and, more than likely, you'll get what you pay for.

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