Anyone in retail knows that the most under appreciated role is that of the Customer Service Representative. They are generally the first and often times the last point of contact with your customers. Unfortunately for them however, they are also the brunt of a lot of customer frustration and anger. During the holiday season, we will ship out tens of thousands of packages all across the country. Inevitably mistakes will happen. A weather event causes UPS to delay shipment by a day, an incorrect suite number on a package, a package gets left in a UPS warehouse…you name it, it will happen. Most of these issues are easily solved. There are times however, where there simply isn’t a solution that is satisfactory to a customer. This is when I feel bad for our customer service reps.
For the most part, 99% of our customers understand that things happen that are beyond anyone’s control. However, there are a small percentage who have no understanding and frankly are just plain rude and abusive. I give tremendous credit to our folks. They treat everyone with a smile no matter how much abuse they take. They truly want to solve every problem and care about every package that goes out. There are times however, that they simply cannot do what the customer is asking.
As an example, we had a call the other day from a woman whose package had not shown up on the expected day. When Nora (one of our reps), looked up the order in UPS, it showed that it was delayed due to a flight being late the day before. It would be arriving later that day. The woman proceeded to scream at her and claim that she was lying. In fact, she said she was looking at a UPS truck right now on her street, and it had no package for her. Nora tried to kindly explain to her that this time of year, UPS will often make several deliveries during the course of the day. Unfortunately that wasn’t the right answer. The customer continued to accuse Nora of lying and said the she ships packages through UPS all the time and they only deliver once a day to any area. She demanded a full refund or she would go on every social media outlet and do whatever she could to destroy our business. Incidentally, the package arrived later that day, just as Nora had told her.
On Tuesday of this week (December 23rd), another customer called and wanted to place an order over the phone. She wanted the package delivered on Christmas Eve (the next day). The Customer Service Rep explained to her that we could not get it there until the 26th. She demanded to speak to a manager so the call was forwarded to me.
The customer started by telling me that she has ordered from us dozens of times (I looked her up in our system while she was talking – she placed one order with us a year and a half ago), and we should be able to get a package out that day to her. I explained to her that unfortunately, our shipping facility was not able to get package out today for delivery tomorrow. We were already booked and all baking and fulfillment was done for the day. The best we could do was ship it out tomorrow (12/24) for delivery on Friday 12/26. However, since UPS does not do ground deliveries on 12/26 or ground pickups on 12/24, she would have to ship the package Next Day Air (admittedly quite expensive). This absolutely wouldn’t do according to her. This was our fault, not hers and she shouldn’t have to pay for Next Day Air. In fact, she demanded we ship the package next day air for free for her inconvenience. I explained to her that these were UPS’s rules, not ours. Even if we wanted to, we could not ship a package Ground. She then told me that she had been trying to call us since the previous week, had left several messages and no one called her back (all while screaming I might add). So in essence, this was our fault. What she didn’t know was that our phone system keeps a log of all calls and all messages electronically. While she was yelling at me, I looked up her number. No calls. I then searched the message log. No calls, and every message had been answered (I didn’t dare bring up the fact that she could’ve gone on our website anytime and placed the order herself). Long story short, there was nothing I could’ve said or done that would’ve satisfied what this customer wanted. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I simply couldn’t. I can’t call UPS and ask them to charge less for their shipping. I can’t ask them to do a special delivery just for her. My hands were tied.
These are always tough calls. Even when we know a customer is being less than truthful or is trying to bully one of us, we smile, do everything we can and try to accommodate. This is why I appreciate these guys so much. They can get a little beat up this time of year. Sometimes there is frustration, often times tears. It’s hard to be sworn at and called horrible names by someone who failed to plan accordingly for the holidays. Some people are just plain mean. They know they can bully, they know they can threaten you with social media, and they just don’t care. Again, this is a very small minority, but when you’re on the receiving end of one of these calls, it can hurt.
One of our reps recently had a problem with Apple and emailed their customer support. Once the issue was resolved, our rep emailed the Apple rep and thanked her for her help. The Apple rep emailed back to say how touched she was that someone had actually taken the time to thank her. She’d been working there for 7 months and it was the first time a customer had taken the time to thank her after the fact. Sad.
So the next time you’re on the phone with a Customer Service Rep please remember – they’re people too. They’re someone’s daughter, mother, brother, friend. They have stress in their lives too. They had a package shipped to them from Amazon that came late too. They have bills to pay, they sit in traffic, their cable goes out during the Patriots game. They’re just like us. They’re not trying to make your life miserable. They truly want to help. They want you to be happy. They want to solve your problem.
So I tip my hat to our Wicked Awesome Customer Service folks. I know how hard you work every day. I know how hard you try to solve every problem, and most importantly, I know how much you care. We laugh a lot together, work very hard and love what we do. Thank you guys. I appreciate you more than you’ll ever know. So, just so you can see that there really are people on the other end of the phone (and not futuristic robots), here they are – our team.
Of course, we all chip in when needed. Don’t be surprised if you call and get Tracey, Dani or me on the other end of the phone, but you already know who we are…