Does customer service make a difference?

posted by Lauren Rauseo on: 09/13/11 in category: just good business | tags:

Customer Service Experience #1

I recently had an appointment at a new dermatologist’s office. The waiting room was super nice, looked brand spankin’ new. It had beautiful paintings on the wall of beach scenes, magazines that weren’t from two summers ago, and a Keurig coffeemaker in the corner with a wide selection of one-cup hot drink options. I don’t need a cup of coffee, I thought. I’ll only be here a few minutes.

After a half hour though, I brewed myself a cup of toasted almond flavored joe, and then sat on that waiting room chair another 30 minutes. I was two-thirds of the way through my cup when the nurse called me back to an exam room, where she told me I only had one more person ahead of me before the doctor would be in.

At this point, I really struggled with the situation. My appointment had been at 11; it was now nearly 12:15 and I still hadn’t been seen yet. I contemplated writing the doctor a letter with an invoice attached, billing for the time I spent waiting for him. I read about patients doing this with success after unacceptable wait times. But I decided against it in fear that he wouldn’t give someone who sent him a bill the best possible treatment, and then I’d be stuck looking for a new dermatologist again (and ultimately, in somebody else’s waiting room). I debated walking out of the office altogether; after all, my baby would need to eat fairly soon, and I hadn’t left a bottle, not realizing I’d be gone for so long. I eventually came to the conclusion that I would stay, my baby would be hungry, and I’d give the doc a piece of my mind if he ever made it to my exam room.

When that door opened, and the physician walked in, he gave me a huge smile and an immediate apology for the long wait. I suddenly found myself saying, “That’s okay,” and sipping the remainder of my coffee.

Customer Service Experience #2

My new baby girl (she didn’t starve while I was at the doctor’s office, by the way) doesn’t have as much hair as I would have given her had it been up to me, so I like to adorn her with lots of girly accessories to avoid strangers asking that dreaded question of whether the child in the car seat is a boy or girl. Her head grew faster than her newborn-size headbands though, and so I found myself searching online for bigger baby headbands.

I found a random website, that appeared to be powered by one of those DIY shopping cart templates by Go Daddy or Yahoo. Though the site left much to be desired in the way of aesthetics and function, I thought at least I’d get a great product and unparalleled service if this was a stay-at-home mom’s small business venture. She’d really care about speedy delivery and return policies. I felt good after I placed the order.

Fast-forward four weeks. My nearly bald baby hadn’t worn a hair accoutrement that didn’t leave a big indentation elastic mark on her poor little head in a month. I finally sent an email to the sales@ address, and got a response that my order would be fulfilled the next day, and she was so sorry, and she would throw in some extras for my long wait. Wonderful! I thought. I hope she includes the bedazzled flower ones.

A few days later, the package arrived, and inside was exactly what I had ordered. Nothing more and nothing less. I contacted the business owner again to ask if I should expect “extras” she had promised in a separate package. Fast-forward another week. No response. No freebie barrettes or bows. I tried getting in touch again, even attempting to reach the business through its Facebook page, which apparently no longer exists.

We are talking about $3 hair ribbons here. I’m not asking for the world. All I really wanted was a quality product in a timely fashion. But when that turned into more than four weeks, and a broken promise after that, I really became disappointed.

There’s a business lesson here, right?

With the doctor, I had pretty lousy initial customer service experience (long wait), which was quickly turned around with a swift and sincere “I’m sorry” and a hot beverage. With the headband lady, I had a bad first impression (long wait), followed by a favorable comeback (freebie promise), which was ultimately never fulfilled, and then the business pretty much disappeared. And should that come as a surprise? You won’t stay in business if you can’t keep your customers happy. And it often takes less than you think to do just that. It seems my customer satisfaction can be bought with apology coffee and a rhinestone hair clip.

About the Author

Lauren Rauseo is your one-stop shop for print design, websites, HTML email, and more. When she's not busy working on client projects, Lauren enjoys running, doing yoga, drinking a soy white mocha, and having a dance party in the living room with her kids. Shake it off, people, just shake it off.

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cute headband; terrible customer service
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