September 24, 2015

Random Acts… Customer service shouldn’t be a bonus

Posted in Business at 2:37 am by dinaheng

“At your service” is a phrase often used, and rarely fulfilled these days.

Whether it’s buying a dress at a department store, traveling on an airplane, or staying at a hotel, customer service all too often depends on whether the employee serving you is having a good day.

During a recent hotel stay in Las Vegas, I think every employee I spoke with was in a bad mood. While I’m not a gambler, my family loves to try their luck at slot machines, so I’ve tagged along with them, sampling many of the major Las Vegas hotels on the Strip.Dinah Eng

Last month, my sister Linda and I decided to stay at Bally’s Las Vegas, which touts a great location across the street from the fabulous fountain and light show outside Bellagio’s, and shares a parking garage with sister hotel Paris Las Vegas. Sadly, Bally’s clearly has gone downhill over the years.

The site, which first opened as the Three Coins Motel in 1963, has changed hands numerous times. Its current owner is Caesars Entertainment Corp., whose main operating unit was placed in Chapter 11 in January.

Unfortunately, our non-smoking room reeked of smoke and the walls were paper-thin. After checking in and leaving our bags, we went out for dinner. When we returned, someone had clearly been in the room, leaving hair in the bathroom sink and tub. When I sat down on a chair by the desk, it was soaking wet.

When I told the maid about it, she just laughed. I had to badger a manager into moving us to another room. Needless to say, we’ll never stay at Bally’s again.

Since good customer service starts at the top, it can’t be easy working for companies whose CEOs don’t understand that the bottom line is inevitably tied to the level of customer service provided.

When the news broke that Jeff Smisek, the bean counter CEO who engineered the problem-plagued merger of Continental and United Airlines, had resigned amid a corruption probe by federal investigators, no one was probably happier than United’s employees and frequent flyers.

It’s hard to understand why the airline, which is rated last in customer satisfaction among big carriers by J.D. Power, still reported second-quarter net income of $1.3 billion in July, a record quarterly profit for the company.

I wonder how cramped seats have to get before people actually refuse to pay any more of the nickel and dime charges airlines now routinely ask for. With fuel prices at such low levels, why are passengers not demanding lower airfares?

Everywhere you turn, industries are inventing “add-on” fees for services that used to be part of a normal sales transaction.

Take mattress specialty stores. My sister Linda, who lives in Houston, recently went shopping for a new queen bed, a process that’s akin to buying a car. You have to bargain for what you want, and settle for what you get, because salespeople usually won’t return complaint calls after the sale has been completed.

The mattress store websites may refer to “free delivery,” but once you’re in the store, you’re told the normal delivery charge is $79. However, if you buy the bed today, that charge will be reduced to $29. Same principle goes for buying the bedframe. Though if you want to take advantage of their financing options, the bed price may go down a little more. (Never mind that over time, the cost will be more.)

After looking through several stores, Linda was able to work with Gail, a friendly saleswoman at a Mattress One store, who just asked how much she wanted to spend. The saleswoman then massaged the numbers to seal the deal, without endless bargaining over each item.

Unfortunately, the difference between a low box spring and a high one was not discussed, so when the bed was delivered with a high box spring, Linda called to ask for the low one. The district manager, who said she should have asked for it at the point of sale, refused to send out a lower box spring unless Linda was willing to pay a $54-plus change delivery fee.

Linda decided against paying the extra charge, and was left with a sour taste after the sale. While Gail’s customer service would have resulted in referrals, the district manager’s decision ensured that Mattress One will not receive any from our family now.

Someone should tell that manager that it’s a lot easier to make a profit from repeat customers than continually trying to shortchange new customers.