Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wanted: Good Service and Product Knowledge

serviceI have to share an interesting experience which will make you realize how desperately we need to train our students that good customer service and knowledge of a product are extremely important. This is very important to businesses during these serious economic times when businesses are competing for the few dollars that people have.

My Proform treadmill finally died last week and is irreparable. I’ve had it for about 10 years and used it regularly. Since I have a service contract on it with Sears, I was given a credit to buy a new treadmill. Shopping for a new treadmill is worse than buying a car! I seriously thought about just giving up and losing the credit that was awarded to me.

I went to Sears to look at the treadmills available and all of the Proforms there were cheap and pretty flimsy. When I got home, I found that Sears Online had Proforms that were much sturdier so I called up the store to see if they could order it for me and then I would buy it from the store. I was told no that I had to buy one from the store.

So, we go back out to the store to look at some more and then we find a Nordic Track C900 that looks much sturdier than the cheap, flimsy Proforms on display. Of course, the incline on the display model was broke and the salesman didn’t know much about it or why it wasn’t working. It was on about a 5% incline but the display showed it was on a 0% incline. He didn’t know much about any of the treadmills other than ringing it up and taking our money. So we are back to the drawing board. I decided that since we had a service contract, we could risk getting one like this and if the incline didn’t work, we would just get it fixed.

When I get home, I called the Sears store just to find out how much a Nordic Track service contract cost, he told me that it was about $354 for 5 years and he thought 3 years might be $250. When I asked him if there was a site online that I could read about it to get exact prices, he told me no. I asked if there was a brochure and he said he thought there might be. Then I asked if he could look at it and tell me the cost, he replied that he wasn’t near one so he couldn’t help me.

Next I call the Sears contract number and find out that if we get a Nordic Track, the service contract cost would be refunded because Sears does not work on Nordic Tracks. I have had wonderful service through Sears so this disappointed me about losing them if we buy a Nordic Track. When I told the lady about finding a Proform online that we liked, she told me that there was no problem ordering for me, and it would be delivered to my house. Then an installer would come install it and remove my old one. This was a totally different story than the one the store person told me. So now I’m back to looking at Proforms.

I found one similar at Academy Sports that I plan to look at since I like to see it with my own eyes. When I asked over the phone if they offered a service contract, the man asked, “You mean they come out and fix it?” When I told him yes, he recited the warranty that came with the treadmill and I asked again about the service contract. Finally he said that he didn’t think they offered any but he didn’t really know. Okay…

So now I finally decided on one to order online, I called back the toll free number for it to be ordered. Then I'm told that for some unknown reason, it is not allowing them to order it. Even though it says it is in stock, Sears says it is not in their system. Now I'm back at square one...again!

Since Sears and Academy Sports had salespeople who were totally useless, it made me realize that this is the caliber of people businesses are putting out on the floor. They are probably being paid little and trained even less.

I truly believe that if we give better service and train people to know their products, businesses would sell more products. Customers would be happier with companies and companies would have pride in what they sell. Maybe all they care about is the profit now but without good customer service and a product they can sell, these businesses will eventually lose the battle.

If I did not have a service contract with Sears, I probably would have given up by now and done without a treadmill. I have had to do the research on my own and if I did not have the time, I would have just stopped looking. Is this what businesses want consumers to do? If so, they need to stop whining when their profits go down!

It is never too early to teach good customer service. I expect salespeople to be friendly (without being annoying), available for help (not texting on cell phone or talking to other salespeople), and willing to find information for me if they don’t know it. Manners are important and all of students should practice this in the classroom with adults and their peers. Role playing different situations would train older students what to do if someone comes to their business and needs help. I think you can teach general good customer service that would apply to any business. Then when they get a job, the employee can focus on learning about the product and not learning the basics.

What do you think?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Customer service'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/11121568@N06/4297836062 by: Alan Cleaver


Sioux Roslawski said...

I totally agree. Manners, the ability to answer a customer's questions, the willingness to go the extra mile...Those are all crucial skills for our students to learn.

Unfortunately, here in the state of Missouri, those are NOT skills tested on our state test, so we don't have time to teach them. So, we will have to depend on the special ed teachers, who work with students in a self-contained classroom, to teach those skills...

Sadly, I have seen an appalling lack of care and interest in employees, from waiters/waitresses to cashiers in a grocery store. It's pathetic and totally avoidable, with just a bit of training.

loonyhiker said...

@Sioux I see it is widespread then and not just here in South Carolina. I just have trouble understanding this apathy in the work place. What has happened to the work ethic and taking pride in what we do?! Thanks as always for your comments!

Perfecting Parenthood said...

You're asking for the world :) Some people's kids eh?

I too wish that salespeople actually knew something or tried to help. Try this, tell your waiter at the next restaurant you visit that you don't know what's good here, so what do they recommend. 90% of the time you'll get "Everything's good" or "That depends" or "I don't know what you like.", or a list of 10 things or an explanation that they haven't tried everything yet. Even when I prompt by asking, "Ok, what's the most popular?" I still don't get a good answer. It's like they don't even have a clue what I'm doing at the restaurant! Just tell me what the chef knows how to make best and I'll order it, or narrow down your menu to two or three choices and then I'll choose.

Anyway, I've given up. Like you, we have to go into the store most of the time with the research already done because buddy on the floor is only going to read off the product spec card that you could have read yourself .. or they'll lie to you because they think that's salesmanship.

loonyhiker said...

@Perfecting Parenthood I remember working in a restaurant and we were supposed to taste all of the dishes so we could tell customers about the food. We needed to know what was spicy or not and also what kinds of ingredients were in them. It seems like salespeople are even afraid to have an opinion anymore!

Sioux Roslawski said...

When I was a waitress, I could ALWAYS recommend food items. Perhaps because I was SO into food, there were always menu items that I had eaten, and I could drool on demand over some of them.

Not only where is the conscientousness,and where is the work ethic, but where is the passion? Where is the zest and enthusiasm for what you do?

cara said...

Communication is key. Written and verbal communication are extremely important skills for students to have. No amount of teacher classroom supplies can help a teacher teach these skills.

loonyhiker said...

@Sioux I think that too many people are focused on money that they have no passion for what they do. I can always tell when I meet someone who loves their job by the tone of their voice, their body language, and the knowledge of the product.

loonyhiker said...

@Cara Too many people have lost the skill to communicate effectively. Maybe we have become so isolated using our technology tools. The other day I went out to eat in a restaurant and watched a table of 4 all sit there texting on their phones but no one was talking to each other!

pat said...

Sears is notorious for having the most rude, most ill-informed service people of any retailer, as proof just log into the Consumer Complaints section! Their customer training has always left a lot to be desired. But as it seems to be that level of service (dis-service??) that they seem to be happy with, as things never seem to change, no matter how many people complain, that is a sad commentary on retail today.

loonyhiker said...

@pat I hope they prove you wrong in this case! I love their service dept.!