OMG! That Just Happened To Me!

Process, training and communication are paramount in the COVID world


Have you ever had a moment where something you recently read about happening to others happens to you?  One of those “OMG, that just happened to me” moments that validate experiences of others and, worse, prove to you something is very wrong?  That happened to me the other day.  I got COVID-19 customer service, by that I mean that I got terrible service due to actions taken by the company as a result of COVID-19.

Worse, I got attitude.  If you have read my blogs for any length of time you know that I espouse doing everything possible every day to generate loyal customers.  I like to quote a great book by Jeffery Gitomer called “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless; Customer Loyalty is Priceless”.  I believe those words and build much of my consulting practice on helping clients generate loyalty over satisfaction.  I believe it is the true key to long term success and profitability.

This month in my newsletter, I am including another great article by Noah Fleming that discusses companies that are using COVID-19 as an excuse to provide terrible service.  As he outlines, doing so is a recipe for failure.  After I read it, I even discussed it with my wife as we have been experiencing questionable service related to ordering food for delivery during the pandemic.

It is simply amazing how many problems we have had trying to support our local economy by ordering dinner for delivery.  Incorrect items, missing items, cold items that are supposed to be warm. And in the current world we found that we had multiple parties to deal with to have the problems solved.  We had to get credit from the delivery service but could not get our orders corrected through them.  We often just lived with what happened and got credit or wound up driving over to the restaurant.  Some of our favorite restaurants, the mom and pop type, stopped using delivery services altogether as they saw the potential impact on their customer loyalty.

Then we decided to get new laptops for each other as ours were getting old.  The last several times we had gone to Fry’s Electronics as I liked to ask questions and get exactly what I needed.  They always were extremely helpful.  So off to Fry’s we went.  The closest Fry’s is a 20-25-minute drive, but we were happy to make it as we had become loyal Fry’s customers.  When we arrived, we strapped on our face masks and headed into the giant store.

We had brought along our old laptops, which had been purchased there, so they could copy things over to the new laptops if necessary.  Upon entry, I walked over to the service desk and told the man there my plans.  He said I could leave the old laptops there while we headed over to look at options.  Great so far, nice friendly guy.  As we turned around to walk into the heart of the store, we realized that the shelves were mostly empty and wondered what that was all about.  There was a lady going around wiping down the few things on the shelves.

We got to the computer area and the clerk was busy helping someone else, so we waited patiently.  He then walked away without saying anything…and did not come back.  Another masked customer walked up and asked if anyone was working in the area.  We told him our experience. I suggested my wife stay there and I went to the lady.  She suggested I go to the checkout area, stating she really could not help with computers.  So off I went.

The gentlemen who had been in the computer area was behind the counter talking to the only other person at the checkout area.  After they finished, he did not acknowledge me and walked into a cage full of equipment.  I asked the lady if there was someone who could help us with a laptop purchase.  She said “Sir, he (pointing to the gentlemen now in the cage) is the only person on the floor due to COVID-19 and you will just have to be patient.”  That is it, she went back to staring at her computer screen, grabbing her mouse.

The gentlemen walked out of the cage and did not even look at me as he walked by.  I started to follow him as he walked back towards the computer area.  I was literally right next to him, yet not a word.  As we approached the computer area my wife walked up to me and told me that all they had left was two models and that we had to go on-line and order what we wanted.  I asked where she got this information and she said that is what the lady who directed me to the front of the store told her.  The man kept walking and never acknowledged me.  I had also wanted to get a new battery for my old laptop, but we left.

As I picked up our old laptops I said to the repairman “I guess you buy laptops online anymore”.  He asked who told me that and I explained.  He shrugged his shoulders as I walked away.

Rudeness because your employer is setting you up for failure is not an excuse.  COVID-19 should never be an excuse.  The lack of staffing should not be my problem, ever.  There were several others in the store, at least one other who wanted help with something computer related.

I do not blame the employees directly; they were put in a terrible position.  But that is something that is Fry’s Electronics corporate office’s fault, not mine.  By taking it out on me those employees are jeopardizing their own jobs, not making a statement to their employer.  I get their frustration though.  The real problem here obviously is Fry’s Electronics’ lack of communication, training, and staffing decisions during difficult circumstances.  I expect that from a small mom and pop company, not a Fry’s Electronics.

The truth?  In an instant my wife and I went from loyal customers to saying to each other as we got back into our truck “Well that’s going to be a blog, for sure.”  I will not be going back to Fry’s for a very long time, that is for sure.  We proceeded to Office Max (those who follow me know I am not a fan of Best Buy), who had an extremely limited selection.  I then bit my tongue and went into Best Buy.  While they had a decent selection, they did not have what I wanted.  The clerk suggested my best bet would be to go onto the manufacturer’s website and buy directly.  He said the configurations I wanted would not be available on the Best Buy website.

So, in the end we went home, and I purchased two Dell laptops off the Dell website. I got exactly what I want delivered directly to my home 4 days later and am typing this on my new Dell notebook.  I am happy and probably will never go back to any of those stores for my computer needs.   Oh, the guy at BB also told me what battery I needed for my old laptop and I got that on (free shipping) two days later.

Customer loyalty is not something to be taken lightly.  A decision that makes sense on one part may kill your customer loyalty as a result.  Everything done should be considered in the light of how it may impact your customer loyalty.  Something could impact internally customer loyalty, like employee morale, and that could have an impact on your end customer loyalty.  Additionally, COVID should not be an excuse for anything, it should be an advantage.   You should handle COVID as responsibly as possible, so you stand out above those who do not.

Process, communication, and training are so key to your customer loyalty.  Your challenge this week is to identify your COVID excuses and get rid of them ASAP!

Reach out, we can help.

Mitchell Bolnick – The Excel Consulting Group