Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Customer Service

I've known a lot of people in my life that seem to mellow with age. Things that used to bother them hardly phase them anymore; and they've become much more patient. But I haven't. I'm just the opposite. I'm thinking something must be wrong with me because my patience has actually decreased and I get upset when dealing with rude people like cashiers, telephone support people, salespeople, coworkers, etc.. I have a big problem with the current behavioral standards in businesses.

Recently, I needed to by a watch battery. I went to the local Wal-mart (which I hate Wal-Mart but it's the closest store to my house) with watch in hand in search of a battery. The batteries are kept in the jewelry department and finding someone to help you there is always difficult. I finally spotted two employees stocking marked-down fashion jewelry, laughing hard and heavy with each other. I interrupted their inane banter and asked them to please help me open my watch and remove the battery so I could replace it with a new one. The teenagers looked at me as though I had just asked them to paint my house but one reluctantly stopped stocking and walked toward me. She asked me if I bought the watch there, at Wal-Mart. I told her that I had not, but I know the battery size is universal and it should be a commonly stocked model.

The "sales associate" quickly informed me that she could not help me since I didn't buy the watch there. She was dismissing me and walking back over to her friend at the same time. She told me that they were not allowed to open the watch since I didn't by it from them. I asked her if I could use the tool to pry open the back thereby relieving her of any responsibility of damage to my watch. She again proudly expressed the fact that it is against Wal-Mart's policy to open, or allow anyone to open a watch that was not purchased from that store. She began talking to her friend and I left.

I was so upset. This was such a minor thing--a watch battery. I had even told the girl that I would sign a paper stating that I wouldn't her or Wal-Mart responsible if something happens to my watch if she or I opened it. The blatent and proud refusal to help me with such a small thing was really unnecessary. It was ridiculous.

I drove to CVS drug store and presented them with the same scenario except it played completely different with the sales associate there verses the sales associate at Wal-Mart. The CVS employee took my watch and headed behind the counter to get his tools. He easily popped open the back of my watch and removed the battery. He replaced the battery and reassembled the watch. The watch did not work. The CVS employee was puzzled and he immediately opened another battery and placed it in the watch. Even after trying the second battery, my watch still did not work. He told me that the battery must not be the problem, since he tried two new batteries. He then told me he would not charge me for the batteries, even though he opened them. Needing a watch, I asked him if CVS sold watches and he showed me to their watch selection. I purchased a new watch for about $20 and then bought a couple of other items I needed, bringing my total purchase to $34. I left CVS feeling satisfied that I had a working watch and received excellent customer service.

The CVS experience is an example of excellent customer service compared to the service at Wal-Mart. Even though I might shop at Wal-Mart on occasion (if I desperately need something quickly at home), my customer service experience with Wal-Mart has greatly reduced my desire to shop there. I will stop at CVS and/or Publix if I need something on my way home in order to avoid having to deliberately go to Wal-Mart. Why are Wal-Marts policies geared to not providing the customer with great customer service? Why arent employees focused on providing customers with superior service? Why are customers viewed as thorns in most employees sides? I think the older I get, them more I value my money. Why give my money to companies that just look at customers and their requests as a liability?

I think the ridiculousness of people and policies truly disturb me and that's why my patience is descreasing. I don't like the fact that I have to deal with stupid people and/or their policies. We design the way things operate and behave, right? Do we really have to make things harder than they should be?