Eyes Wide Open

By: Steve Thorburn

When I called home this weekend for my weekly chat with Mom, she began telling me about her broken freezer. She said she went to get some tater tots, and noticed everything in the freezer section of the refrigerator had begun to thaw. Any other year, or any other time of the year, this might have been a devastating problem. However, since Michigan (and most other parts of the country) is experiencing colder-than-normal weather, she was able to put her freezer stash in the garage and let it refreeze.

Where she lives in Michigan, calling to get service on a relatively new refrigerator freezer is still a challenge. While Mom is part of the silent generation, she is not afraid to reach out on a telephone to get help. Unfortunately, all she got was an automated device. A device that doesn’t let her provide any information about the situation other than press one for this and press two for that; all she could do was schedule a time for a service technician to drive at least 50 miles from the point where he was dispatched to come out and see if the problem could be fixed.

In this case, the service technician was to call at the start of the designated time window to confirm the appointment. When he called, he said he would be there in 60 minutes, as he was just wrapping up his current call. This was the first time she talked to a human about the problem and she questioned the service tech, “Will you have the right part?”

Long story short, he did not have the right part. He had to order the circuit board, and he was told it would take four days to get to the shop. So he scheduled his return appointment for the following Wednesday, six days later, hoping the part really would come in on Monday.

What strikes me as ironic about this drama as I listened to it was the lost week of time. There was over a week of waiting that, from where I sit, did not need to be in the process. I’ve learned that I will never have to pay for a delivery charge from Proflowers for my mother since they just cannot get the flowers there on the scheduled day—remember I did say central Michigan (a.k.a. the true middle of nowhere). However, Amazon Prime orders always make it within their two-to-three day delivery window; so why did it take the technician four days to get a part from his main warehouse regardless of where it was located? They should have been able to pick the part that day and ship it out overnight, assuming there are at least daily deliveries between the main warehouses in his dispatch office.

Even better, if they had gotten the make, model, and maybe even a serial number from my mother when she called the first time and actually spoke with a human at the end of the push-button survey, they might have been able to know that the freezer just quit working, and they could have had that circuit board pre-ordered on the van. I say this because when I got the make and model from my mother and searched the internet, there were a number of ongoing discussion threads regarding a failure in the manufacturing process for a particular control board for this model of refrigerator freezer.

So without all the information, this young service tech could not go into this call with his eyes wide open. Even though he was “very polite,” he gets to return and spend some more quality time with Mom. I understand this is a $300 warranty call and that he’ll have between four and six hours of on-site and travel time, plus at least 150 miles on his van; this company is lucky they’ve only invested maybe $200 in his time and direct expenses, leaving $100 for the part return, shipping and handling, and front office support. Yes, “service” is part of the cost of doing business and the $300 warranty call is not intended to be the way to cover these costs, but if we can step back and think about the process, with just a few questions, they might have been able to avoid a second trip out.

Now that things are getting busy again in our businesses, we have to think about the true cost of a call, project, visit, etc., and how can we better utilize our precious human resources that, in many cases, seem harder and harder to get. Having our team go into situations with their eyes wide open, asking as many questions as possible will allow us, as an industry, to provide better—and if I dare say—less costly customer service in the future.

Social Media Services

Customer service in the public eye—it’s a concept that has grown immensely since the rise in social media. When Twitter launched in 2006, its role in the business world was still unknown. But as the service took off, it became another public platform for customers to complain, praise, or question a company, and in turn offered the business a chance to respond.

The benefit of answering a customer’s question or complaint on a social media platform lies in the immediacy: as soon as a company catches wind of a new comment, it has the opportunity to respond directly to that customer, giving them immediate, individual attention, to help solve their problem. It also gives you a chance to get to know your customers on a higher level, so you can cater to their interests as you develop future products.

“We, as integrators, business owners, and the like, use Twitter, Facebook, etc. to keep up with what our customers are saying. We get glimpses into what their interests are, what they are talking about, and can use that information to figure out how our products can play into that world. And it gives us, as members of the AV industry, a great way to keep in touch and continue to discuss news, trends, and other daily happenings.”—Kelleigh Welch

This article was originally published at System Contractor News.