Tuesday, August 12, 2003

TBOGG and Jim Capozzola have posted a couple of fine experiences in customer service they've been lucky enough to experience.

The strangest CSR experience I've ever witnessed was not even something that happened to me. It happened when I worked for Pizza Hut. At one point, the company decided to implement a 1-800 customer service line, under the theory that people not inclined to "voice their concerns to a member of our management team at the point of sale" (i.e., "complain in person" -- gotta love that Business English) might instead wish to complain to an impersonal operator on a telephone hotline, and those operators were authorized to give the customers gift certificates as they saw fit or, perhaps, even pass the contact on to an Area Director for further resolution if it was really horrid.

Well, one day a shift manager I worked with had the unfortunate experience of having a person who was clearly "three sheets to the wind" come in and try to order a pitcher of beer. Quite properly, she denied the request, and the customer stormed out; later, the customer called the complaint-line to report that she had been denied service. The 1-800 operator, who actually worked for some third-party call-center to which PH had outsourced the whole operation, showered this customer with gift certificates and whatnot, and if I recall correctly the Area Director was referred in this case -- all because the Shift Manager in question had done her job correctly. The poor woman was utterly incensed because, in her eyes, this was as if the company was not backing her up.

I'm not sure what the moral here is, but it illustrates some of the pitfalls of business today. Outsourcing is a fact of life, but surely it says something about what companies today think is important when they're outsourcing customer service. "We value you as a customer and we value your business, so in the event of a problem, please feel free to call this number and talk to someone who not only doesn't actually work on our company's payroll, but is in all likelihood not even in the same state as you -- and might even be in a different country entirely, since a lot of these jobs are going to India these days."

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