During the day, I got a call from my old friend Rebecca. How great to reconnect. Her life has had some major change over the past year, the last four months in particular. During the last year, her and her husband had separated, and in February Batiste, her beloved dog, died. My heart ached for her. Things are looking up, though. She's off to interview for a job that I think would be just great for her. My positive thoughts are with her.
I ran to the RTP Post Office after the meeting to mail copies of my "School's Out for Summer" story, and to mail three post cards. As usual, the line was long, so I decided to use the stamp vending machine to buy some post card stamps. Though I only had three cards to mail (gift subscription notices to Courtney, Jeff, and Irene), I wanted 30 23-cent stamps.
Usability Issues: Item "A1" showed a 23-cent stamp, and had the words US Postal Cards under it. They were 5 for $1.25, I put my money in and hit A1. Out came not post card stamps, but a set of five actual post cards with stamps printed "into" them. That's not at all what I wanted. I then noticed the word "card" in postal card, which I took to mean postcard. Then I looked at A2, which was also just a picture of a 32-cent stamp, but they were 10 for $3.20, which also intimated they were the actual stamps. I got three books of those.
Two things from a usability standpoint: 1) Why put one of the probably least popular items (postal CARDS already stamped) as the first thing in the vending machine? 2) Why not put a picture of the entire postal "card"; that is, showing the white space with the stamp in the upper right corner, instead of just showing the stamp?
So, after saving all that time, I got in the long line to get a refund for the cards that I didn't want. When I finally got to the front, I was told I had to fill out a "vending machine refund form," which I did to the side while my clerk took "the next person in line, please."
Turned out that lady was sending this huge box overseas, which was NOT going to be a fast transaction. At one point, I stepped to the clerk beside mine and asked her if she could take my form and give me a refund. She was a trainee, and didn't know how to do that.
My clerk finally freed up, and then couldn't make the computer recognize the "item number" of the cards from the vending machine, her supervisor came over, they tried some things, and started getting frustrated that they could only get the computer to recognize something for $1.20 instead of $1.25.
"I'd be glad to take the $1.20 and call it a day."
She said, "Oh you want cash back?" She thought I wanted 5 32-cent stamps. She opened the drawer and said, "Here's $1.25, we'll figure out how to get the computer to recognize it later."
Good idea. So much for the convenient vending machines!
That reminds me of two customer service stories over the past week or so:
I got some excellent customer service, and from a cell phone company at that. It's such a rare occurence that I felt compelled to ask the person who was helping me, at the end of our call, to give me her manager's e-mail address. I sent him this e-mail:
Subject: Kathy Bradford's Customer Service
Dear Mr. Hobson,
I just wanted to take a moment to let you know how impressed, and pleased I am to have had Kathy Bradford take my customer service call today.
I explained to her that I was calling because I had received a somewhat cryptic e-mail saying:
From Cingular Wireless Customer Care
Sent Wednesday, June 9, 2004 9:09 pm
Subject Message from Cingular Wireless Customer Care
Please contact Cingular Wireless regarding account number xxxxxxxxxxxx at 1-800-947-5096.
After she determined that my balance was zero, and finding no indication in my record that I needed to call in, she said, "Let me write down what you said about the e-mail being cryptic, so I can bring that up at our next meeting."
I had explained that it made me wonder if it wasn't one of those e-mails that we're warned about responding to, the ones that are made to look like a company sent them, but really didn't. I would have liked a little more information about "why" I was supposed to call. I also stated that I would have expected that a note like this would have come in the U.S. mail, or via a telephone call, and she explained that a letter was also put in the U.S. mail about it. It might be nice to have had that stated in the e-mail to give it more legitimacy.
In a day when we've come to expect a customer service rep to just say, "Okay, it was a mistake," or "I can't do anything about that, it's computer generated," or "some other department totally unconnected to ours handles that," it was so refreshing to see Kathy being proactive, and taking ownership of the problem even though it didn't seem to be something she had direct control over.
This made me think three things about her:
1) This person "gets" customer service.
2) This person is committed to her company's success.
3) This is someone I'd want to reward, and to keep working for me if it were my business.
I hope you will take a moment to thank Kathy for a job well done, and reward her in some way. If you have some kind of "Service Award," she deserves it. If not, maybe you can give her a comp day off or something to show her that her management team appreciates her as much as this customer does.
Thank you for your time.
Here's my other customer service experience, not so good.
I was at Sam's club. I'm looking through a huge stack of shorts, trying to find my size. The stack is high, and deep, and I'm short. I'm reaching way over trying to sift through the stack that's one row back. To my left is a person who works there leaning against the rack, at first facing away from me, so that the back of his smock is in my face: "Ask me. I can help." blazoned there.
After a minute or two, he turns around, eyes me struggling and manages, "They sure don't make it easy, do they?"
Guess they really take that motto seriously there. That is, the part about having to ask them, 'cause obviously, the help wasn't forthcoming on its own.
After work, I met Steven at Carmichael, and we worked out and walked. I did 30 minutes (450 calories) on the "Versa Climber" machines, and then we walked two miles, I believe it was. We caught up.
I had nachos and cheese when I got home, and then just chilled out for the night.
Oh! Want to capture a few of the crazy things Rhonda (my officemate) and I have been saying the last few days. We get so out of control sometimes, laughing laughing laughing:
"Yo mamma is so fat that when the police snuck up on her standing alone on a street corner, they yelled, "Break it up!"
And then the black breacher at a funeral for his brethren, "Brothas and Sistahs, death, has snuck up on THIS man. Like the IRS snuck up on me at the Free Will Baptist Church."
"Brothas and sistahs, death has snuck up on THIS man. Like a gangstah with a Colt 45 and nuttin but BADness on his mind. Now don't let the smoov taste fool ya!"