Customer service done right by Fazoli's

E8AEFF9E1A8811DA.jpgOver the weekend I visited the Fazoli's drive through on my way out of town - it's the closest thing we've got to an Italian restaurant (though maybe not for long) and I have a certain affinity for it after having worked at one as a teenager for one of my first real jobs (it did take me a 10 year hiatus to wash all of the garlic butter out of my clothes before I could go back, but hey...). This particular visit to the restaurant was horrible - garbled drive through communication, messed up order, improper packaging that led to messes and burning of skin, etc.

As I tend to do, I used Fazoli's web-based comment system last night to describe my experience in hopes of helping them make things better. I was really impressed that today, I got a calls from the store manager and the regional manager, both telling me how devastated (their word) they were about my experience. When I talked to the store manager further, she went into detail about the specific things they should have done differently, and mentioned what steps she was taking to prevent it from happening again. And of course, she said "it would make her feel better" if she could send me some coupons. I really appreciate that.

So from a customer service perspective, despite the negative initial experience, they did everything else right:

  1. They made it really easy to contact them with my comments and concerns
  2. They quickly and sincerely acknowledged my concerns, and showed me that it was important to them to take action
  3. They addressed the specifics of my comments and what should have been done differently, without making excuses
  4. They offered to make it right in a tangible way

Nicely done.

Switching to Parallax for home broadband

This is an unabashed plug for Parallax and their high speed wireless Internet access service. I complain enough on this blog about poor customer service experiences, so it's important to me that I document the rare but special times when I have a really positive experience. I'd been using Insight's cable broadband service, which costs $45/month and included somewhere around 3 MBps download and 400Kbps upload (your mileage may vary widely - learn about different connection technologies). It also malfunctioned every time my cat sneezed. Parallax's service is $40/month and includes 1 MBps download and 1 MBps upload (really nice for sending large files out or hosting something). Important: you don't need a wireless card to use this service - your home network can still be wired all the way. And they're local, which has a number of benefits. And they're reliable. And their customer service tends to be excellent. I know these things well since my business depends on them for mission critical network operations every day. So I didn't really know why I'd even waited as long as I had to get setup with their wireless service. (I did call Insight and ask them to make me a better offer...they couldn't.) The Parallax sales rep and installers treated me like a real human being, they worked fast and effectively, and the connection has worked great from day one. Thanks, Parallax, for being a quality local provider of a valued service!

Whiny insights about local cable internet provider

If you read through my weblog, you might get the impression that I find joy in whining and complaining about the poor customer service practices of companies I deal with. Really, I tend to be a pretty positive person, and don't go out looking to pick people/places/things apart just for fun. But sometimes I just gotta share.

So there's a local cable internet provider, which I won't identify here by name, that I wish had better Insight into its own local network operations. Based on my experience, they have downtime / problems and my connection goes down when any of the following occur:
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The Customer Can Always Write

I get the sense that I tend to spend an unusual amount of time exercising my "right" as a consumer to provide feedback to the companies and organizations from which I buy products and services. The general trend in "consumer action" these days when a company is providing poor customer service or substandard products seems to be cursing a bit under one's breath, perhaps having a tense exchange with The Manager, but otherwise letting it go...and usually returning again soon to patronize the same business without a memory of frustrating experiences of the past. Whatever the reason might be for this trend - reduction of our shopping choices, general consumer apathy, or something else - it's exactly what many businesses are counting on from all of us so they can keep their bottom line where they like it. I have a different sense about how we should act in the face of poor service and products.
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OfficeMax responds to customer service letter

I had a nice call this morning from Nick, the local store manager of the OfficeMax in Richmond. I'd recently had some really poor customer service experiences in that store with them and had submitted a narrative of those experiences for their review. I usually don't bother going back to a place after such occurrences - especially not a big box store - but in Richmond they are uniquely suited to sell a few products that I and/or Summersault consume, so I thought it worth at least trying to share my observations in hopes of improvement. Indeed, Nick mentioned that they'd "huddled" about/around the letter this morning as a staff, and that they'd be researching the issues I brought up. So I guess that means either (A) I'll be mugged in a dark alley by a bunch of disgruntled OfficeMax employees wielding letter-openers, or (B) I might actually have a better experience next time.

Instead of sitting on hold, get a call back

I called Vectren Energy Delivery (a.k.a. the gas company) the other day with a question about my bill, and was pleasantly surprised by a customer service measure they've implemented. When I had made my way through the phone tree to the point where I start to sit on hold, the system said "we'll call you back within the same period of time you might wait on hold - 47 minutes." Then they let me enter a phone number and record my name. Indeed, about 30 minutes later, I got a call back from an automated voice saying "please press 1 when Chris Hardie is on the line", and was then connected to a real person who promptly addressed my concern.

While I sort of question 47 minutes as a reasonable hold time (there was no known natural disaster occurring at the time of my call), I really appreciated having the option of making it their responsibility to follow up, instead of my responsibility to sit on hold. It also means they don't have to keep as many phone lines and support staff active, which theoretically reduces costs. I hope other call centers consider similar measures!

A letter to Papa John's

My letter of Tuesday, Sep 7th, 8:30 PM:

Greetings. For the second time in a month, I recently ordered Papa John's breadsticks and had them delivered with only a Garlic sauce - no pizza sauce or cheese sauce as has been included in the past. Your website indicates that at least the pizza sauce should be included (perhaps you've discontinued the Cheese Sauce?). In any case, I've been fairly disappointed both times, and thought I'd take a moment to note that folks ordering breadsticks and pizza are probably expecting the extra dipping sauce variety with the breadsticks (since garlic sauce already comes with the pizza.



Their response of Tuesday, September 7th, 9:20 PM:

Thank you for bringing this situation to our attention. I apologize for the inconvenience and dissatisfaction that you have received from this location. I have forwarded your comments on to the proper people for review and resolution. Once again I apologize for the incident.


Online Ordering Team

Papa John's International Inc.

Sprint PCS needs to run cron jobs more often

Fair warning: this post is pure rant.

I have a Sprint PCS phone that I use as my primary, and only, home phone line. There are tons of reasons why I like this arrangement, which I won't go into here, but I've been a loyal, pay-on-time Sprint customer for several years now. Which is why it was maddeningly frustrating to go to make a call today and get a note that my account had been shut off because I was over my spending limit.
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Big Corporate Tops Small and Local

I'm usually very much in favor of using local vendors, service providers, etc. instead of big corporate versions whenever possible and reasonable. Current cultural trends make that a challenge. But I've recently had an experience where the branch of a big corporate bank impressed me much more than that of the local bank that I would usually like to celebrate on that basis alone.
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