Customer Service

When you go to any retail outlet they all have a desk or counter of some sort, with a sign hanging above that reads ‘Customer Service’. The customer service desk is where you go when you require assistance, or wish to return something or have a complaint. It is also the place that most retail outlets put their newest employees.  You know… the ones that they train how to give a refund and how to use the paging system to call for help if the customer doesn’t just want a refund.

 

You would think that it would be in a stores best interest to have a knowledgeable employee behind the desk, one that could put some service into ‘customer service’. This is rarely the case though, what you get behind a ‘customer service’ counter is a teenager working their first job. If you’re not looking for a refund, they’re picking up that phone and calling for help!

 

“Do you know if you have blah, blah?”

“I’ll page a manager for you.”

“Can you tell me where I could find blah, blah?”

“I’ll get a manager.”

“I want to bring this back.”

“I’ll call… oh wait! I can do that!!”

 

I don’t understand why the store doesn’t just put out a house phone so I can call the manager myself. It would be far faster and then they could change the sign over the counter to ‘Refunds only’.  Then at least the sign over the desk wouldn’t be as fraudulent as it is now. The person who thought the whole ‘customer service desk’ idea up had his heart in the right place, but the thought that service comes from under a sign is idiotic! Customer service is not a place but a state of mind. It delivers on the question; “If that were me, how would I like to be treated?”

 

Customer service is an intangible that separates a good place from a great place. I have eaten in many restaurants where the food was great but the service was so bad it spoiled the meal. When I have left the establishment it is the one thing that stays with me and I will tell everyone that asks me that the service sucked, and sometimes if it’s bad enough, I don’t wait for them to ask.

 

Last year at the Playa Magante the service under the guidance of Captain Ahole was atrocious. Many times we sat with empty drinks and waited endlessly just to place our order. It was easy to see by the emptiness of the place that I was not the only one unimpressed by the way Ahole was running his business. A year later the Captain has set sail and now Wendy, whom Ahole had previously banished from the Playa, is running the show. The restaurant business appears to have improved and even though trying to get Playa Paraiso en Magante on to the internet has turned me grey (oh wait, I was already grey… children did that), it is starting to receive reservations for the high season. Things are taking a turn for the better.

 

This is where ‘customer service’ will play a big role. The experience that you have when you visit anywhere, save your own living room, is a determining factor on whether you will return and recommend the place to others. In some instances you have no choice but to return. “It’s the only grocer in town,” you would say but with venom in your voice and even if you had a perfect experience on any particular day, you would still feel negatively. “At least I was able to find everything this time,” you would say. The negative impact of poor customer service resonates on and on.

 

The problem that arises with customer service is that it is open to interpretation. My idea of customer service may differ from that of others. It’s why I’m always asking myself when I deal with customers the age old ‘customer service’ question, “If that were me, how would I like to be treated?” I can state with complete certainty that no matter whom you are that the answer to that question never includes yelling, cursing, belittling or ignoring. Customer service is about aiding and assisting, it’s about adding to a person’s overall experience when dealing with your business, and it is meant to create a positive impression so that the customer leaves feeling all warm and fuzzy.

 

In the Dominican Republic there are so many choices to make when it comes to restaurants or lodgings that the ‘customer service’ provided can severely impact an establishment. If a customer has a bad experience they will never return and will tell others never to go. In the restaurant/hotelier business this is death. A bad review can set you back a year.

 

The Playa Paraiso en Magante is not a five-star resort. Our advertising does not state that it is. PPeM’s number one asset is its location. It’s right on the sand!! You would be hard pressed to beat that at $75 US a night on any island!! The accommodations are basic at present, there are no smelly soaps in the rooms and there’s no free bottle of rum waiting for you upon arrival. We are on a virtually uninhabited bay along the north shore and it is not the easiest place to find. So the people that do find it need to have the best customer service experience possible, it is the thing that will set the Playa Paraiso en Magante apart from its competition.

 

Now I have told you all this so you understand my mindset on customer service because I am part of the customer service experience at the Playa Paraiso en Magante. I act as the online concierge for PPeM. I have regular contact with guests that make reservations and the booking agents that we advertise with. I work as a conduit to Wendy  letting her know about the reservation and any special request the guest might have and I do this in multiple languages using Google translate. All of this I do from the comfort of my home office and until just a few days ago, I thought I was doing a damn fine job.

 

Then the other day my cell phone rang and when I answered it a woman started talking to me in Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish! It’s why I use Google translate!! It seems that when I set up the accounts with the booking agents I used my own number as the contact phone number for PPeM.  The woman on the other end of the phone was a guest that was checking in that day and she was lost. She was lost??? You can only imagine how I was feeling at that moment!! After much confusion and the use of my best tourist Spanish (Ginger calls it SpEnglish) I did manage to give her the phone number to call Wendy who could speak to her in Spanish and give her directions. “Es numero  y ocho, dos, nine… “I can’t even count to ten in Spanish!!! I was just crushing customer service at that moment!!!

 

In the end the problem was solved and the guest arrived. I had Wendy bring them a drink on the house once they had settled with an apology for my lack of language skills. It does not make up for my glaring inadequacy but hopefully it will mellow the negative experience and the rest is up to Wendy. I had done the best I could for the guest and was able to facilitate a solution but feel I fell quite short of the service I would have wanted had that been me lost on a beach. When I arrived home that day I promptly did two things, I learned to count to ten in Spanish and hung a sign over my desk… “Refunds only.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Can you identify your telephone number as an “English Only” and/or “Lousy Spanish Only” customer service representative and/or refer a customer to Wendy’s telephone number for “Emergencies Only”? I know … I know … Everybody has a difference interpretation for what constitutes a lousy Spanish speaker and for the word “Emergency” too (and in so many languages yet!). So I realize that fine-tuning the customer service telephone numbers might create problems too. But it might be a bit of a fix.

    I don’t know if you are aware of this: I worked in retail once. It was a long time ago. Now I was a nice guy when I worked in retail, I treated people well. I was courteous and respectful and I tried to deal with the customer as I liked to be dealt with whenever I was a customer. But I hated every second of my work in the retail business. It takes a special breed of person to be good at customer service. I believe you are one of those people. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

    1. Yes I think I can change the numbers or add numbers and it’s on the ‘to-do’ list. But I honestly never thought anyone would call me!!!

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