What the Heck Has Happened to Customer Service

By | Dec 21, 2009

I often talk about Customer Service here on Administrative Arts, because I consider it to be such an important aspect of your job, regardless of your job description.  Well, this morning, I was caught in my own personal customer service brouhaha, and I thought I would share it with all of you to illustrate some points.

On Friday morning, I called my local home builder victoria and after that i went to my discount store pharmacy (who shall remain nameless, but you can probably figure out who they are, since they’re everywhere) to transfer some prescriptions.  With times being so hard and money being tight, I’m moving my prescriptions to the discount store to save money.  When I spoke to the person on the phone, I emphasized that one of the prescriptions was most important because I was almost out.  That one prescription was a priority, and I’d need to pick it up on Sunday.  I was very clear on that point.

Well, guess what happened when I got to the discount store on Sunday morning?  Yep, they had the two other prescriptions, but not the one that I had pointed out as being the most important.  The store declared they had no record of the prescription, and when the pharmacist called the grocery store pharmacy to get the information, he was told there were no refills on that prescription.  I knew this wasn’t true, because I always double check my prescriptions before requesting refills.  He was rather rude and snotty about it, so needless to say, I left in a rather cranky mood.


I returned home and checked the prescription bottle, and sure enough, I had two refills left.  I called the grocery store pharmacy, and they told me the prescription had been transferred on Friday!  At this point I was ready to rip my hair out, since by then, I’d missed my dose of medication.  I called the discount store, and told them what the grocery store had said.  He was again a bit shirty with me, and told me that the pharmacist he spoke to said that there were no refills and the prescription shouldn’t have been transferred.  You’ll note here an acknowledgement that the prescription had been transferred.  He never acknowledged it otherwise nor addressed what happened to it between Friday and Sunday.

By now, I’m pretty much seeing red.  I call the grocery store one more time and this time spoke to the pharmacist.  She apologized profusely.  She had looked at the wrong screen on her computer and only saw no refills, which was, of course, because the prescription had been transferred.  She said she would call immediately and give the other pharmacy all of the information.

After I finally got my medication (and immediately took it so hopefully my blood pressure wouldn’t blow the top of my head off), I thought about today’s little fracas and what we could learn from it.

The Mistakes Made

In this case, both stores made mistakes.  The discount store made the first mistake by losing the prescription to start with.  We know it was transferred, because the other store confirmed that.  The discount store just flat out screwed up.

The grocery store pharmacy made a mistake as well by telling the pharmacist there were no refills remaining on the prescription.

The difference, though, was in how the stores each handled the issue, which is an essential customer service issue.

Looking at the Differences

At the discount store, I was treated rudely, with little courtesy, and I never once received an apology.  Granted, they did give me a small discount on the medication, but the fact that they neither acknowledged their mistake nor apologized for it will be long remembered by me.  They also did little to correct the mistake.  I’m the one that had to go through the frustration of figuring out what happened and get it corrected.

The grocery store, however, acknowledged their mistake, explained in detail what happened and why, and most importantly, they apologized for the mistake.  This will also be long remembered by me.

Lessons To be Learned

I can tell you right now.  As soon as money isn’t so tight, I will not be shopping at the discount store and all of my medications will be transferred back to the grocery store pharmacy.  Not only because they were polite, but because they did their best to figure out the problem and to get it fixed.  When I called them back the second time, they had already realized the error and were working to correct it.  So even though their services cost more, they are the pharmacy I would much prefer filling my medication needs.

So what lessons can we learn from this?  Price is not the only factor when people need something.  While the discount stores may have a foot up in a poor economy, they do not build customer loyalty by being rude and unhelpful, not to mention refusing to even acknowledge that they messed up.  So while some of us may be forced to shop there now, when the economy improves, they’ll be losing a lot of business .

So here are our customer service lessons:

  • If you make a mistake, acknowledge it and work to get it fixed.
  • Even if you didn’t make a mistake, when you have  an unhappy customer, try your best to fix whatever the problem is.
  • Apologize for the customers unhappiness, even if you aren’t at fault.  It goes a long way to soothing the client and to building customer loyalty.
  • Especially apologize if you are at fault.  A simple, “I’m sorry,” can carry a lot of weight.

What’s Your Experience

We can often learn basic lessons from our every day experiences.  What has happened in your life that illustrates a good customer service lesson?  Leave a comment and share with us all. (Note: if you are reading this by e-mail or RSS reader, you’ll need to click through to the web site to leave a comment.)

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3 Comments so far
  1. Dan Waldron (1 comments) December 21, 2009 1:17 am

    I discovered your homepage by coincidence.
    Very interesting posts and well written.
    I will put your site on my blogroll.

  2. TheInfoPreneur (1 comments) December 29, 2009 1:13 pm

    This is a classic example of how to lose a customer and make sure that customers friends never return!

    admit the mistake and as you say work bloody hard to resolve it!

    great post

  3. Jodith (189 comments) December 30, 2009 11:29 am

    Thanks! Yeah, I was pretty steamed when I wrote this. I came home, sat down, and banged out the post while the indignation was fresh in my mind. *laughs* I have to admit, though, that I’ve been back since then for another prescription, and they were on top of the job this time. So to give kudos where kudos are due, they did do better, and I hope they’ll continue to do better in the future.

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