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customer-service-social-mediaIf you’ve ever lived through the process of buying a house, selling a house or building a house, you know that those processes can be – and typically are – hugely stressful. We recently finished the home selling process (for the 3rd time), packed all our furnishings and belongings into PODS (I highly recommend), moved into a fully-furnished, short-term rental apartment (not as “fully-furnished” as promised) and are currently awaiting an official close date for the purchase of our new home, which we built.

All of this has happened in the past 60 days. Which means that along with packing in a boatload of stress, strategy, worry and big decisions into a very short period of time, we also have had the pleasure (and major displeasure) of even more customer service experiences during this time.

Customer experience is a big deal to me. Partially because I feel that even basic customer service levels aren’t met by many businesses today. And partially because I worked in consumer behavior research for years, helping corporations of all sizes understand and improve their products and services.

I’m a person who believes in recognizing both great and not-so-great service. I tip – and tip well – for polite, attentive, timely service. I’m active on review sites like Yelp. I will give personal referrals to friends, family and managers of those who have helped or worked with me. I will also gladly share my positive and negative experiences with a product or business both online and off.

In the past 60 days, we’ve had only a couple outstanding customer experiences, including AMRO Music and Apex Home Builders. We’ve had many basic, “meh” experiences, like calling up a utility and successfully ending our service with minimal aggravation. We’ve had a couple instances where a very helpful and well-meaning employee made an honest mistake that negatively affected us in a big way. And there were a couple of laughable times where we could tell employees had been “schooled” on embarrassingly-desperate tactics aimed at stopping a customer from ending their service.

We’ve unfortunately had a couple of very bad experiences, too. For starters, our short-term rental company did not have our rental ready for our contracted move-in date, did not respond in a timely manner (nor as promised in their literature and voicemail message) when we called in a panic, emailed us instead of called (even after we asked them to call us directly) and never followed up the morning after move-in when we called about our broken deadbolt.

Our worst experience by far, though, was the unprofessional, unethical behavior by the buyers’ agent in the sale of our home.

While I’ve never understood businesses who don’t seem to place any importance on fulfilling their customers most basic expectations, I feel like the widespread use of social media, online review sites and blogging means that the days of lousy service and low-quality products will have to come to an end. Sure, I don’t think that purely because there are these tools out there that all businesses will magically shape up and get their acts together. But it’s becoming exponentially more difficult to repeatedly deliver sub-par goods and services, and maintain a profitable business long term.

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