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~Monday~  It was not overly sunny this morning, but it was hot and there was no breeze. A bird sat perched at the top of the bus stop sign, right in the middle of it like it was placed there rather than having just landed there. I took a picture of it with my cell phone camera, but it was too far away to be worth posting.

There was a jeep parked in a no parking zone and crooked—like some drunk driver had backed it up until the back right tire hit the curb and then just walked away from it. I was surprised there was no ticket on it.

I substituted for my friend and colleague, Jason, today at our (IT) organization's table at the New Student Orientation. This is the gig from noon until 1:30, where for the first 45 minutes, the students attending orientation come through and then for the remaining 45 minutes their parents come through. There are information tables of a lot of the organizations on campus including in addition to ours: Student Government, The CO-OP Office, the Study Abroad program, CSLEPS, the GLBT Center, Campus Libraries, Greek Life, and so on.

I worked with Jimmy, from our OIT Walk-in Center, which was a pleasure. My last encounter with him was back in April, when I stopped by with Duma (when he was here with Xolani) and Jimmy and his team helped get Duma's laptop, which had driver error problems, back up and running. He was so helpful that I gave him an OIT T.O.A.S.T. award afterwards.

We had great conversation in our "down time" between giving IT information to students and parents. He's getting ready to study abroad in France, in Marseille, for a year in a Master's degree program that involves a year there and then a year back here in the States. How exciting.

The conversation took me back to my six-week business trip to La Gaude in the South of France just a few miles from the Cote D'Azur, also known as The French Riviera. Although the work site in the city of La Gaude was a few miles away, I stayed on The Riveria in an ocean-front hotel that cost $650 a night. Did I mention it was for six weeks? Three highlights of my time there come to mind:

  1. Totaling my rental car on a (too) quick lunch jaunt to a perfume factory in Grasse, and having to call the local IBM manager there to tell him what had happened. I crashed into a light pole in a roundabout because I was looking back after I'd already entered the circle trying to finish reading directional signs not unlike these:

  2. Getting pick-pocketed shortly after taking $200 cash out of my wallet to leave in the hotel room safe, and during which my money clip, of sentimental value, was stolen. I had heard about people using Gypsy kids as shields to help pickpocket tourists, and then I lived it.

  3. Having fun during my six weeks there putting together ridiculous phrases in French that I could manage from my four years of studying French in high school, the most fruitful being, "Les femmes qui vendent le fromage sont tres, tres jolie," which I used often in the grocery store deli to not only put a smile on faces of the ladies working behind the counter, but to get a little extra fromage as well.

I got a response back from the CAT folks today regarding my customer complaint letter of last week. Let's take a look at what constitutes a good customer service complaint response and see how this situation fared against it. Here's the response:

Dear Mr. Martin,

Thank you for letting us know that those signs are missing. Our drivers have been alerted to pick up passengers at the stops on Brooks by the Credit Union and the signs will be reinstalled.

We are monitoring the traffic on Hillsborough St and exploring options in this area for Route 12.


Carmalee Scarpitti
Transit Planner
City of Raleigh Public Works Department
One Exchange Plaza
Raleigh, NC 27601
919-516-2628 (office)
919-516-2684 (fax)

Please note my new email address: Carmalee.Scarpitti@RaleighNC.gov

Try our online transit trip planner www.GoTriangle.org or call 919-485-RIDE (7433) for route and schedule information in English or Spanish.
Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.

How they didCritical element of a good customer service responseComment

Respond immediately

I sent my initial e-mail on Tuesday, July 6, 2010. By Thursday, July 8, I still had no response so I called, asked for a supervisor/manager, and got transferred to Stanley Grant's voice mail. He called me back a couple of hours later to say he couldn't hear my voice mail and asked me to call him back or e-mail him.

I e-mailed him and called him back to let him know I'd e-mailed him, but had to leave him another voice mail to say that. I never received any confirmation, by a return phone call or reply e-mail, that he'd received either. I didn't receive a response the rest of the day, nor on Friday.

Today, Monday, I got the above e-mail from a totally different person.

Thank them

"Thank you for letting us know that those signs are missing."


Nowhere in here does it say anything like, "We're sorry this happened to you," or "We're sorry you had to call us to check on your original e-mail," or "We're sorry you've been inconvenienced," or "We're sorry our service hasn't been up to snuff."

Express empathy

Nowhere in this response do I see something like, "I can understand how it would be frustrating to you to chase down our bus once it passes you at the stop, and then how embarrassing it would be for you to have to argue with our driver in front of the other passengers on the bus."

And in the complete opposite of empathy, I told them that I've been taking this detour route since its inception and there have never been bus stop signs installed at this stop, yet they wrote back, "...the signs will be reinstalled," which essentially either 1) discounts my comment completely, or 2) implicitly calls me a liar. There simply have never been signs installed at this stop, so there can be no "re-installation."

Give them "double for their trouble"

I'm not sure how this could apply in this situation, but I'm quite sure it wouldn't have happened if it could have.

And I have no confidence whatsoever that it won't happen again even though "Our drivers have been alerted to pick up passengers at the stops on Brooks by the Credit Union." It seems to me that if a new, or substitute driver, works one day, that they can easily not "get the word."

Now the fun begins to see just how long it will be before signs are installed at that stop.

I did a 20-minute cardio workout at the gym on the elliptical machine for a 350-calorie burn. On the way out, I had what was probably a 350-calorie slice of pizza, as First Monday Free Pizza night had been moved to tonight, since last Monday was a holiday.

Just before leaving for the gym, Anna had called me to see if I was available to "come out and play" this evening. I met her at Flex where we had one drink while being scared by Scareyoke, and then we went to Helios for some coffee and to use their free wi-fi, only to find they'd closed at 10:00.

We took it across the street to The Diner, which also has free wi-fi, and where we had coffee and I ordered this simply delicious dessert, and where we hung out for a little over an hour. You can hover over the image for a description to confirm what this is.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 13th, 2010 06:31 pm (UTC)
Sarah will be jealous (again)
I love it when I make the headline! I also /must/ hear more about your six weeks in a $650/night hotel in France. Merde! Salon XIII agenda...my next stop.

Thanks for coming out to play last night, John!

Jul. 16th, 2010 12:47 am (UTC)
Re: Sarah will be jealous (again)
Well, I'm not in the title but at least I am remembered in the reply! :)

Jul. 14th, 2010 11:44 pm (UTC)
That is a pitiful response from CAT. I blame the person who shunted this over to Ms Scarpitti, though.

On the 'double for their trouble', the smart strategy would have been to ask you to help them address rider issues. I'll bet they're working on something that they could use some user input on. Unfortunately many agencies don't do a good job of tapping their core customers--the daily commuters--when they plan routes/stops/facilities.

And the construction on H-borough is almost done--they were paving at the west end today. Hooray! They should be un-detouring your route (and mine!) very soon.

Jul. 15th, 2010 12:23 am (UTC)

Hi Ann, I blame anyone who is in customer service and was involved in this letter. While I believe Mr. Grant should have done the apologizing and expressing empathy, Ms. Scarpitti should have made sure he (or SOMEONE) had done it, and her last line is just way too vague, in that it opens more questions than answers. A line that would have answered my question would have been, "We wanted to wait until all the construction on Hillsborough Street was done to put the route back so we wouldn't have to inadvertently detour it again if something else came up to affect the route during the remaining construction," since I pointed out in my original letter the reason we were first given for the re-routing has long been taken care of.

The line she does provide, "We are monitoring the traffic on Hillsborough St and exploring options in this area for Route 12," makes it sound like they are considering other options rather than just returning it to the original route. It's frustrating to have "teased" me with that, and then not told me what the options might be.

With all that said, even if the route ends up remaining on the detour route, I'll be so glad to have the Hillsborough Street work done! I'd rather it go back to the original route, but it's not the end of the world if it does stay on the detour—as long as signs for that stop are erected, of course! :-)

Your point about something that could have fallen into the "double for your (customer's) trouble" category is spot on!

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Edited at 2010-07-15 03:21 pm (UTC)
Jul. 16th, 2010 02:23 am (UTC)
Fair enough. It is indeed a non-response to your question. Still, the email just smacks of someone who got the task of 'sending something out' dumped on them with no knowledge of the background or the possible solutions in the works. Plus they probably were not empowered to *actually* say anything. I'm just more sympathetic to what I'm seeing between the lines. Must be the beer.

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )



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