Clocks on purple wall Extended customer service hours – the ability of your customer to reach you when they perceive that they need you – is an important part of the customer relationship.  Experts encourage companies to do whatever it takes to be there for the customer via social media (all channels), telephone, email, chat, mail and telephone, typically followed by “WHENEVER the customer needs you.” In reality, always being there and always being everywhere can be expensive.

I noticed an interesting contrast recently – one with the bank with which I’ve had my personal accounts for over 30 years and another with the company from which I buy protective cases for my cell phone.

It was a Friday night when I mistyped the online banking password I’d used for the last few months and got locked out of my primary account. UGH. I did what I’d always done in the past and picked up the phone to call the bank’s customer service number. Hmmm…they’d changed it. It was no longer a local number and it was toll-free. I called that number and after entering my account number, my mother’s maiden name, my birthdate, my zip code and a few other pieces of identifying info, I ended up with a voice mail. “You’ve reached us after hours. Please call back between 8am and 8pm Eastern Standard Time Monday through Friday.”

Seriously? I was shocked. I’d been a customer with this bank since my first job out of college and had always been able to reach their customer service number after hours. I’m busy during regular business hours and I LOVE being able to deal with personal stuff like banking during evenings and weekends.

Next, I went to social media. The bank’s Facebook page touted their community activities, with disabled comment functionality and a a profile which said, “For customer service matters, we encourage you to contact our Quality Process Department at (313) xxx-xxxx.” When you call the number, you can leave a message, which they say they will return during regular business hours. Again, no extended customer service hours. I was really getting frustrated. I left a detailed message with my name and phone number. (Unfortunately, it’s been two weeks and they’ve not responded.)

The bank’s Twitter account is similar, with most responses to complaints advising the consumer to call the customer service number Monday through Friday.

I admit being a bit freaked out. I didn’t know if I’d simply fat-fingered my password, or if someone had broken into my account. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t log in on my laptop or on the bank’s mobile app.

What happened to the bank I used to have? The one that I could call when I had a question or if I got locked out of my account, even if it was an evening or weekend? Where did they go? I was curious about whether I was taking this change in service levels so personally, so I posted a few informal questions to my social media followers and found out that most adamantly prefer to have some extended hours, i.e. service from 8am to 11pm weekdays and 10am to 6pm on the weekend days. One of my friends said she’d rather wait until Monday than have to “talk to an off-shore agent.”

Moving ahead, I called the bank on Monday morning and explained my distress. The agent didn’t apologize or even acknowledge my comment about the shortened hours. The best part? At the end of the call, I was able to log in to my account and felt incredible relief  to see everything was as it should be. I thanked her profusely. Click. She said nothing else and simply hung up.

Oh, and the other situation I mentioned in my first paragraph? I had purchased the wrong cell phone case for my new Google Pixel. My husband called Otterbox and ordered me a new one while I was struggling to get in touch with the bank on Saturday afternoon. (I guess that case was *kind of* an emergency.) I’m wondering if my bank might take a lesson from them and consider giving back some of our beyond-business-hours customer service. I know if (or should I say when) something like this happens again, I might be tempted to move to one of my bank’s competitors.

I’m also very curious about whether my personal experience is the sign of a trend. If you’ve noticed customer service hours being cut or if you’re a manager who has been forced to deal with less resources and less labor hours, share your story in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.

******************************************

Lori Jo Vest is the co-author of Who’s Your Gladys? and Taming Gladys! Learn more about Lori on LinkedIn: Lori Jo Vest, Consultant/Author

Like our posts?

Pick up our newest book: Taming Gladys! The Busy Leader’s Guide to Creating Fierce Customer Loyalty

Read our first book: Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan

Check Out Our Turnkey, In-house Customer Service Training Program:  The Customer Service Roadmap

Book a dynamic keynote or training.

 

 

Soft skills training means a better travel experience.

Soft skills training means a better travel experience.

Is soft skills training important at the airport? Absolutely. It’s important everywhere, since research shows that 85% of job success comes from having well-developed soft skills.

For the traveler (customer), the level of airport customer service can severely impact the travel experience. Here’s one example of the difference soft skills training can make.

If you’ve ever been through a security clearance at the airport,  I’m willing to bet it’s not your favorite part of the trip. It had never been horrible for me, though on a recent quick trip to California, I knew I was in for “extra attention” from the TSA before I even left the house.

My passport had expired and I misplaced my driver’s license. I had gone in to get a new one and my proof of license renewal was a white piece of paper with no picture. Ugh. I headed off to make my flight and my experience with the folks at the security checkpoint in my hometown was definitely less than pleasant. I was in for a full body patdown and a thorough look through the contents of my bag.

It was an unpleasant experience, though the TSA agents weren’t actually doing anything blatantly wrong. They said what they’d been told to say. They did what they’d been told to do. And when the shoes in my bag gave a false positive on a substance test, they took all of my belongings out of each bag and laid them out on a table. I practiced some deep breathing and managed to keep myself calm through most of the experience. It wasn’t until the incident had stretched to 45 minutes in length and I’d been scolded by two different agents that I started to get upset and angry. By the time we were finished, my husband had called the TSA’s national office to complain. Whew! I finally got on the plane and the rest of this leg of the trip was uneventful.

When it was time to go back home, I hoped for the best from the Sacramento TSA team. I still didn’t have a photo identification so I knew I would again be subjected to “special attention.” Fortunately on my return trip, the woman who handled the screening, Maria, was obviously a trained professional. Trained in TSA screening? Obviously. But what made the biggest difference was her obvious experience with soft skills training.

It wasn’t until we were almost finished and I realized how pleasant it had been that Maria told me she had previously worked in retail. I briefly recounted my prior screening and complimented her on her customer service approach. “I’ve had training in customer service,” she said. “It’s not hard to be kind, even when you have to search through somebody’s bags. It’s really basic.”

Here’s how Maria’s soft skills training impacted my personal experience:

She made eye contact and introduced herself with an empathetic smile.

As soon as I met Maria, I felt important. Taking a warm service-oriented approach, she told me her name and asked mine. She was professional, but not cold, making small talk as we moved through the process.

She told me what she was going to do before she did it.

Step by step, Maria went through what she was going to do. “I will need to empty your bag though I promise you I will be careful with your things.”

She reassured me.

A TSA screening of any kind is nerve wracking, particularly when you’re expecting a full-body patdown. Maria had a calming demeanor and a warmth that was reassuring during a time of stress.

As Maria finished up my screening, we made small talk about my experience with the TSA at my home airport. She didn’t seem surprised, explaining why her demeanor was different from her fellow TSA staffers. “I worked for Safeway. We had customer service training,” she said. “Good people skills make everything so much easier for everybody.”

******************************************

Lori Jo Vest is the co-author of Who’s Your Gladys? and Taming Gladys! Learn more about Lori on LinkedIn: Lori Jo Vest, Consultant/Author

Like our posts?

Pick up our newest book: Taming Gladys! The Busy Leader’s Guide to Creating Fierce Customer Loyalty

Read our first book: Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan

Check Out Our Turnkey, In-house Customer Service Training Program:  The Customer Service Roadmap

Book a dynamic keynote or training.