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In the Era of COVID -19 Customer Service has Vanished

With most firms in the world were shut down because of governments worldwide I would think they have a desperate need for sales and revenue. This is not a time to deliver awful customer service.

In the last few weeks, I have experienced some of the worst customer service by large and small firms in the US. It appears the attitude is what the former Soviet Union had in the 1980s. You should be honored that we will let you spend money with us. Frankly, it appears most firms have used COVID -19 as an excuse and attitude to deliver terrible customer service.

Most of these firms are financially ruined from no business for 90 days and now they seem to want to burn the few customers that are willing to spend money. Management has eliminated the focus on customer service. Employees could care less. Management is very arrogant. It is really bad.

Batteries Plus is a small firm with maybe 3-5 employees at its Bloomington Minnesota location. I called at 7:45 am on a Monday to see if they were open. I left a message to call me ASAP. I had a battery in my key that was dead and I could not start the car. I called at 10:15 am and when they answered asked why they did not return my phone call. They said they were really busy. I borrowed a car and drove there. I was the only customer in the store. I asked why they did not return my phone call. They said they had been really busy. In the US I suspect at least 80% of employees lie. Anything to get rid of the customer.

Superior customer service requires speed and honesty. I paid about $12.88 for the replacement battery. That night I told my wife, Pat and she said why didn’t you go to the little local True Valu Hardware store I drive by each day on the way to the office. I had a dead battery in the 2nd key so I took it there 2 days later. They inserted the battery for $4.29. This week I needed a new car battery. I went to Auto Zone instead. They installed it for me.

The Lessons I Learned:

1. Avoid Batteries Plus
2. Give the business to my little hardware store that has great people
3. Save over 66%.
4. Instead of the employees at Batteries Plus being happy that they were finally open, their attitude was to not interrupt me.
5. Give your money to firms that walk the talk on customer service like True Valu Hardware and Auto Zone and really value your business.

I have had so many bad customer service situations in the last 10 days. Last week I made a hotel reservation on Expedia for Rapid City South Dakota. Minnesota is still in lockdown and we wanted to go to a State that was open for business. My son and daughter-in-law were joining us there. I double booked the reservation for 2 rooms when I opened my email. It took over 3 hours and over 10 calls to get the double reservation deleted. The hotel needed Expedia to cancel the reservation. The number they gave me for Expedia did not have options for humans. I finally got a different number for Expedia. Their chat line is run by robots/AI. NO humans. This is really stupid. If you ask a question they repeat the same thing. They dropped the call several times. The last time I called I told the agent I was not happy and she just hung on me.

I would think Expedia has had a drop in revenue of probably 80% or more over the last 3 months. I only made a reservation for one night. They have not staffed up to handle the increased volume.

I was staying for one night at the Baymont Hotel. My son called to say he could not join us Wednesday night. Expedia was willing to cancel the reservation. The Baymont Hotel management was NOT. I gave them a very negative Trip Advisor review. They were desperate for short term revenue and lost a customer for life.

Lessons learned:

1. For the next two nights I NEVER USED Expedia,
2. There are many firms for hotel rooms. I am not forced to use Expedia.
3. Social Media is powerful. Hundreds of thousands of people will hear about Expedia.
4. Never use the Baymont Hotel
5. The hotel sacrificed short term revenue for a very negative review on Trip Advisor and Expedia.

I bought some orchids at Trader Joe’s for my wife for our 43rd wedding anniversary on April 2. They started to fall apart after only a few days. She wanted me to return them. On Mothers Day weekend I tried twice to return them but they had huge lines of about 50 people. They only allowed a few people into the store at one time. (They feel you should be privileged to be able to enter their store)

The following weekend I brought the orchids back for which I had paid $20. The cashier called a manager. He asked if I had a receipt and I said no. He spent about 10 minutes checking his records and then said I had not bought the orchids at Trader Joe’s and they did not sell them. I asked to speak to the store manager and he said he was the manager. I called him a jerk and he said don’t talk to me that way. I left the half-dead Orchids and said I would never be back.

Lessons learned:

1. Always trust your customers
2. Practice Service Recovery
3. The employee never practiced empowerment, service recovery or trusted the customer
4. I think they are on a power trip and believe you are lucky we allowed you to enter our store.

For the rest of 2020 focus on superior customer service. Make sure your staff is trained to deliver Extraordinary customer service. Good customer service will not get you into the game. As the world opens up this is your opportunity to steal customers from your competitors.