Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It Seems So Simple

"We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It's our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better."
-- Jeff Bezos

Yeah?  If only.

So I was standing in line at the bank yesterday afternoon.  A line of five people.  A line I wouldn't have been standing in at all had the bank not reduced its staff in the commercial department from two full-time people Monday through Friday to one part-timer.  A line that was moving very slowly because there were, in this particular bank, at that point in time, five teller windows with one teller working.  It should be mentioned, too, that the drive-thru lanes outside, I noticed when I drove in, were backed up as well.

Oh, something else: Yes, I was in a hurry.

And yes, I'm the impatient type.

And yes, the last thing bank people - or any service industry people - need do is give customers the time to contemplate how effectively - or ineffectively - they are dealing with the general public by making them stand in a line that is moving at a glacial pace.  Especially a guy like me who counts the wait in seconds, not minutes.

I noticed, as I was waiting in this line - ten minutes? - 600 seconds? - some fella dressed in a suit at the end of the room, looking.  Watching.  Evaluating.  A district or regional or corporate supervisor, I surmised.  There to see if this particular branch was performing up to company standards.

I noticed too, on the wall above this one and only (harried) teller one of those colorful, impactful signs that are meant to make customers feel as if they are special.  One-of-a-kind.  Precious.  Its slogan had something to do with "customer satisfaction."

I looked at the slogan, and then at the supervisor, and back at the slogan, then at the never-shortening line, then back at the supervisor who made no attempt to speed things up.  No attempt to bring about customer satisfaction. He was there, you see, to make sure that the process, as outlined by corporate directive, was being adhered to.

The whole situation struck me as being off kilter.  This bank - and that supervisor - weren't seeking - or working to achieve - any level of customer satisfaction.  Not really.  They were seeking and were prepared to accept "customer tolerance."  That supervisor was looking to see that those of us in line were tolerating the fact that there was only one teller on duty and that the line, though not satisfactory, was tolerable.

It was that.  I suppose.

All I needed at that moment was for someone to walk up and hand me one of those infernal "customer satisfaction survey" cards.  Another tool used extensively by those who seek to meet Jeff Bezos's exacting standards.

A post card.

It's easier than unfolding one's arms and pitching in to actually help provide that satisfaction.  Right?

A suggestion: Next time you're being serviced by a company that emphasizes "customer service," decide if the management there - through their actions - are actually seeking to provide customer service or rather if they are searching for that point in the provider/customer relationship beyond which the experience becomes intolerable.  A good indicator: How long are they willing to let that line grow - and how long do they expect a customer to wait - before providing that which that customer came in to accomplish.

Until that point is reached - and they'll continue to push the envelope - you can expect that supervisor to stand there with his arms folded, watching to see to it that his customers are being handled in the prescribed manner.

Customer satisfaction.  Too often a mere slogan ...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Here's To America's Veterans

Past ...

And present ...

And to their spouses, who have to put up with endless stretches of time during which their loved ones are off taking America's fight to its enemies so that those enemies don't bring it here.  Again.

Happy Veterans Day.