I did not plan to write about customer service again this week, but as life would have it recent experiences provided cause for another discussion on this subject. By the end of the week, the tactics and intentional shifty business practices of the apartment and cell phone industries left me shaking my head. I reflected on the meaning of homeownership and the necessity of cell phones today. I will share my thoughts on each of them one at a time.
Historically, home ownership represented stability and success. However, for any number of reasons, leasing has been a better choice for many. For most folks, the rental option meant freedom of responsibility from landscaping, property maintenance, and general repairs in and around the property. At least in my area, additional protections provided by cameras, gates, and on-site staff have attracted tenants and supported the higher asking prices by landlords. In exchange for rental payments, landlords have promised high standards of professionalism and concern for tenants. It has been my experience that landlords often expect perfection on the part of the tenant with contract demands for excellent care of their properties and timely rental payments, with no exceptions. Unfortunately for tenants, landlords sometimes fail in the area of considering fact scenarios form the perspective of their tenants. I wondered if these failures were due to lack of concern by the landlords, lack of knowledge about the subject matter on the part of the landlords or their agents, laziness and inefficiency, or if the goal of increasing their earning potential necessitated taking advantage of their customers.
One of my friends and I shared apartment failure stories mid week. I told her my best tale that involved a broken air conditioning unit during the middle of summer and being told that living in a hot box was not an emergency after six in the evening. The apartment representatives also told me that there was nobody to call for repairs over the weekend unless it was a water leak. Really?! One would expect that the next thing out of their mouths would be “Let us make this better by discounting your rent or paying for a more comfortable place for you to stay until we can get the unit repaired.” Well, that didn’t happen. It took a few calls and a letter to get a portable, temporary unit to cool off my space.
My mother used to say, “If you put your problems on a clothesline with everyone else’s, you will go back and get your own.” Mama was right. When I spoke to my friend, she shared that representatives at her complex received a FedEx package on behalf of her husband. There was proof of delivery from FedEx, yet no apartment representative could find the package which contained a check. About two months later, she learned that someone from the complex attempted to deposit the check into the complex account without the knowledge or permission of her or her husband. She had officially told a more shocking story than my story. I told her that she won and we both laughed.
Before I could get too engaged in writing about the crazy apartment complex situations, I had an online chat with an AT&T agent. She was fabulous and I told her so. I also completed the end of session online survey because I wanted to inform the company about my experience. The truth was that the availability of the online chat opportunity made connecting with the company easier and more convenient. I loved that I could ask questions without being asked to purchase other great deals. The problem came when I asked her to explain the mobile insurance package on one line and the insurance on another line. We have four lines on the account. I was told that the multi package insurance plan allowed for coverage of a maximum of three devices. Therefore, in order to cover the fourth device I had to have a separate insurance plan. It was confusing that the company didn’t offer a multi pack insurance plan for the family plan that included all four of our lines. Since my inquiries were designed to reduce my monthly bill, the nice agent offered to change our insurance plan by attaching an insurance premium to each line instead of me paying for the two insurance plans. I watched the computer screen anxiously waiting to see how much my monthly bill would decrease if she initiated this change to my account. After all of her computations, she typed that she could save me $5.00. Huh? Speechless was all I had at that moment so I thought “Let me move on to discuss how I might save money on a change to the family plan.” I was offered two other options. If I selected the less expensive plan, my data speed would be reduced and my savings minimal. It seems that the invention of the bundle plans gave more benefits at a price just below the cost of the a la carte menu selections. Like the housing situations, the company felt cold and heartless. I understood at that moment that the profitable business motive took precedence over the family concerned about a household budget and saving.
When consumers have these sorts of experiences, the warm and fuzzy feeling vanishes and the company becomes a cold, stoic establishment lacking compassion and flexibility. At that moment, it doesn’t matter how inclusive, how diverse, or how happy their advertising might have been. Instead of making the company look like and feel like the folks in their pamphlets, online images, and commercials, the company look fake and phony and the customer feels deceived. Companies ought to train their agents and empower their agents to deviate from their scripts. As much as I prefer human conversations and interactions, the mechanical processing of the important needs of consumers aggravates me. I encourage my audience to shop and compare because that is what I will be doing. Finally, I encourage my audience to treat people with respect and empower anyone in your space to use respect, knowledge, and a consideration of the perspective of others in managing any moment of challenge or conflict.