DIY

Poor customer handling skills - When to walk or drive away


There was recently a blog post about noticing good customer handling skills, and it struck me as particularly poignant as I had just returned home after an experience that was almost the complete opposite.  I had arranged to visit a customer that was in the middle of a major UK city.  I rang ahead to ensure that I could park on site, as there is nowhere to park within sensible working distance of this client’s building.  I was told to present myself at the entrance barrier where they would let me in.  

On arrival, however, I was told that I was not permitted to enter their site and would have to park elsewhere.  The nearest public car park was about half a mile away, too far to carry my toolbox and spares.

I did not feel that it was my place to argue with the officious jerk. To stand and argue with doormen and security guards is a fruitless experience, because they are programmed to follow their instruction cards, much as the punch card reader of yesteryear -- to deviate from the programming is to invite errors. So, I asked him to pass a message to the person I was due to meet, explaining why I hadn’t arrived as planned, and left.  

Luckily, I had another job in that city, so the three-hour drive wasn’t totally wasted.  I was banking on my contact doing all the necessary arguing on my behalf.  I was about half a mile away when my phone rang, and the customer advised me that they had found me a space after all, so I completed my other job and returned.  

The barrier opened for me, and I drove in to see a parking space with my name on it!  I signed in, and there was a contractor’s pass made out in my name.  The first security officer was nowhere to be seen.  I did the work and was on my way home in less than 30 minutes.  I felt that it was not my place to argue with the security droid, because it would have more impact if the complaint came from within the organization.  

Driving away is a tactic I have employed more than once.  On one occasion, I asked the person involved to inform the customer that I wouldn’t be able to return for two weeks, as I was going on holiday.  That customer called me back before I had gone more than a mile!  Too hard on the customer?  Poor customer skills?  I feel that the process is a two-way street.  They had asked for me to be there, I had explained my needs, and those needs were explained for a reason.  Currently, with a displaced shoulder joint, I cannot carry heavy objects great distances, so my request for a parking space was not a trivial one.  The customer had agreed then failed to inform the guard, therefore I left it for him to sort it out. 

12 comments
Electrosonics
Electrosonics

I have gone so far as to blackball a town do to a very bad customer experience. Here's the story. One day I sent out two techs to install a server and workstations at a customer that is an hour drive away. The only place to park is public parking a few blocks from the customer. So my techs carted the equipment to the customer site making several trips back and forth to the van. Not a problem, we are use to stuff like this. The public parking has a two hour limit, so my tech sets his alarm and returns to the van to feed the meter and on the way there, spots a closer parking spot. So he moves the van to the new parking spot closer to the customer. When he gets out of the Van he sees that there?s a chalk mark on the tire. He bends down and wipes the chalk mark off. When he stands up, the meter maid is there glaring down on him. She called the police and had my employee sited for removable of the marks used to determine if a car has been at a meter too long. Remember the two-hour limit? Apparently one cannot feed the parking meters in that town! So the police come out, put my tech in the back of the car and listens to the story from my tech and then the meter maid. As the meter maid is a public servant and refuses to believe my techs story, he is forced to issue a ticket to the employee for his nefarious deed. I learn of all this when my employee comes back from the client. As there is no dollar amount on the ticket, I called the city office to learn of the damage. Now here is where it gets interesting. The city office?s says that removal of the mark is grievous crime and there is no monitory amount assigned. The employee must appear before a judge for sentencing and/or financial penalty! Good grief! Okay this is nuts but I play the game. So a few weeks later I send my two employees back out to the town?s court. There they wait a few hours for their turn before the judge. Waiting with them is the police officer, who by the way, is apologizing for the meter maid stupidity. He has better things to do that waste his day dealing with this stupidity (his words). The meter maid never shows up and the judge throws out the case. You would think that is the end of the story but no ? there?s more. A few more weeks pass and the customer refuses to pay for the server and workstations. The reason: the partner in the firm who made the decision was not authorized to spend the money! As we did not have a signed contract, suing would have been a costing process and we would stand a chance of loosing everything, so I decide to cut my losses and have my techs repossess the equipment! Loss to my company caused by the meter maid: 1.5 days of technical income Loss to my company caused by the customer: 4 days of technical income plus network cable. As many other customers from that same town were flaky too, I blackballed the entire town. I guess certain communities are magnets for wacky people. My loss is someone else's headache! I also refuse to render service to law firms unless they pay upfront but that?s another story.

Why Me Worry??
Why Me Worry??

Back in the summer of 2006, I was working as a salaried consultant for an IT consulting company based out of NYC. Anyhow, one of the clients was an insurance company that was expanding its offices to other countries. Anyhow, the company I was working for was responsible for ordering the network equipment and rack hardware for this location on the lovely island nation of Bermuda. Also, that office had a contract with a local IT guy who was responsible for setting up the Cisco switches and routers to establish connectivity for the local VoIP Nortel phones and for my server hardware to be going on. I was engaged in back and forth conversations with the local office IT person and was told that everything was in place and ready for my onsite arrival to hook everything up. I got my airfare and hotel taken care of to visit Bermuda (which was a nightmare in itself during the vacation season) and arrive on the island. Need to say, I arrive in the office to find a neat stack of Cisco switches, all rack mounted into the rack but without power or cross connections to one another. The local IT guy who was contracted to do this never did his job, leaving me with the daunting task of setting up Cisco equipment, which wasn't part of my scope of work, nor did I know squat about Cisco in any way. I spent the entire week there putting in 12 hour days and spending long hours on the phone with my boss, establishing a way for him to remote into the switches so that the North America based Cisco engineers can set up the equipment for us. Also, their WAN connection was over a flimsy ADSL connection which was constantly going down, knocking out both the phone and server link back to the main office. What should have been a routine rollout turned into a nightmare because someone dropped the ball and didn't facilitate the proper requirements before I showed up. I learned a very valuable lesson in all of this...."Never take anyone's word for it and always request verification and documented proof that the work was actually done and proven to work".

CaptBilly1Eye
CaptBilly1Eye

Man! What a Story! I won't boar ya with mine, but suffice it to say... I find myself agreeing with your decision. I left MI last year - lived in Kazoo and Plymouth. Just curious... give me a clue what town it was? One of the Shores or Farms? :-)

Tig2
Tig2

What I have done in the past to get around it is to make sure that my client is aware of the requirements and to insure that we have a plan in place before the move is to occur. That way, there are no surprises and everyone knows who everyone else is. I have had to deal with all manner of security in a variety of places. It is key to have all those arrangements in place well beforehand. In some cases, it meant that my whole team had to attend safety training or similar before we could get temporary badges. Not knowing that requirement in advance could have caused slippage in the deliverable timeline. Of course, none of this matters at all if everyone hasn't followed through. I see nothing wrong with driving away in the situation described. Especially as the author is responsible for any ticket he picks up. He has a right to protect his driving records.

rickhal
rickhal

I agree with you. The customer has some responsibility to get a technician they called to come and fix a problem into the building and not make it a hurdle to jump over to be able to gain reasonable access to a site. It is up to the person requesting the service to insure that all necessary arrangements have been made and understood by all concerned. Including security guards.

Color me Gone
Color me Gone

I totally disagree. Back in the day I was part of a team working out of columbus ohio on big slow computers. It took cart loads of parts onsite ( big carts ). We called one Big Blue. We also maintained computers in Cincinatti so we loaded up a van, drove the 100 miles to the queen city, parked in a paid parking lot 2-3 blocks away, loaded up carts,pushed them inside the ohio bell building, repeated this till we had all the parts upstairs, fixed the problem. Than reversed the process and drove back home. No whining about how hard the job was. We just gotter done..

mad tabby
mad tabby

Yeah yeah, all us young lazy slobs demanding respect for our work. Hey, if I show up and a client isn't there, or isn't ready for me, I leave. I have better things to do than wait around for someone to decide to privilege me with their time. I have the courtesy to show up on time (or to notify if I can't), I expect the same.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

That generally bodes ill for the corporate culture. There are only 3 possibilities for why you should be kept waiting for an interview. 1)They are SO overworked they can't keep their appointments straight (you really want to jump into a zoo like that) 2)The hiring manager doesn't have his act together. (again, a bad sign) 3)They don't respect people (a VERY bad thing)

Why Me Worry??
Why Me Worry??

I can't stand it when an interviewer expects me to be on time, yet makes me sit and wait for 15 to 20 minutes past the scheduled interview time at the reception area. If they aren't there to meet me within 5 minutes, I apologize to the receptionist and walk out. If they leave me hanging like this, then why in the hell would I want to work for a company that doesn't respect their commitments or schedules?

Menopausal
Menopausal

Did it occur to you that you were just teaching them to disrespect you? If there was no other way to get the parts there, fair enough; if the profit was such that eating the parking was not a problem, fair enough. But the previous posters are portraying a situation where someone could have (in fact promised to) rectify a difficult situation. Also that the costs ate up the profit, if they would have just swallowed it. That's not working smart. I invested in myself to become skilled, not somebody's doormat. I don't work for free, I work for a FAIR wage. I will bend over backwards for the customer. I will NOT bend over forwards.

Jeff Dray
Jeff Dray

Because it means that, in effect, I make no money for that day's work. I won't argue with wardens, if they say move I move. I call the customer as I leave and tell them what has happened. - Employers make them our responsibility, that gives me the right to refuse the job.

NewYorkYankee
NewYorkYankee

There were times when I wished I could drive away but when you are unloading a server and about 40 workstations and a traffic warden writes a ticket while you are working, the answer is to keep on working. Fine, if the company you are working for takes the pain and pays the ticket. Not OK when the company you are working for passes the ticket back to you. The UK is probably the worst place in the world with regard to officious traffic wardens and companies that dont give a toss about their employees when it comes to IT delivery, collection and or swap outs. In the space of two months, I have been ticketed three times for parking near a building where I was loading or unloading IT equipment. UK banks do not offer off street parking facilities and when you park outside the branch, which you have to do to unload a server, UPS, and peripherals you lay yourself open to a ticket ?40 [$80] which believe it or not is the responsibility of the driver/deliveryman/IT technician. I drove away from the job at high speed! The moral of the story? IT in the UK can be hazardous to your financial health, especially given the predatory nature of some councils/boroughs. The fact that the company I was working for put all of the reponsibility for parking, delivery and loading/unloading down to the technician seemed crude, unhelpful, as well as counterproductive especially given the amounts they were making on installations swapsies and general maintenance. I liked the work but not gambling with tickets and fines. Thats real world IT UK style.