Enamored by rare Florida Customer Service

4 Apr

Somewhere I read that customer service levels are inversely proportional to unemployment levels.  In other words, when jobs are plentiful, people don’t take their jobs as seriously and customer service falls off rapidly.  Following this principle should equate to higher customer service tough economic times when people are relieved to have a job.  Somewhat related, today’s St. Petersburg Times ran a Washington Post article today “It’s about time for millenials: The youngest generation of employees values time away from work” that emphasizes that a mere 5% of millenials (aged 18 to 29) cite work ethics as a generation distinction (the lowest of those in today’s workplace).

My experience bodes that the worse the unemployment rate seems to be (it’s now over 12% in Florida!) and the more millenials I meet, the worse seems to be the customer service. This is what makes this past week so rare – I witnessed four people delivering what I call standout customer service rare these days:

1. Stacey Knights, a St. Petersburg entertainer who, despite a less than full crowd at Gallagher’s restaurant brunch last weekend in Tampa, played her entire set of Norah Jones/Sade/ jazz tunes as if there was a full house.  Stacey knows the importance of treating every customer like royalty and was utterly professional in her performance!  I can’t wait for Stacey to be discovered by David Foster and win a Grammy for her soulful and extraordinary talent!  Meanwhile, she plays her heart out to audiences here in the Tampa Bay area awaiting her big break into stardom and values every fan!

2. Svetlana, a wine demonstrator at my local Sam’s Club yesterday who after talking about the escalating food prices, spent time telling me about a new store, the Coast Guard Exchange which is now open to the public with discount prices.  It was nice to see someone who despite the nice weather outside took pride in her job and her customers and take the time to actually connect with people.

3. Marshall Goldsmith, author of the new book “MOJO…” (the topic of two of my postings this past week) who donated an hour of his valuable time (he’s a high earnings author and speaker) to give guidance and advice about what’s happening in today’s society and how it affects global self-esteem.  (While Dr. Goldsmith surely sold some books as a result, his generosity to share his webinar, slides and time without direct compensation is exceptional compared to many marketers “buy my book, buy my book” marketing approach).

4. Alex Dekkers, (who happens to be my millenial son), who works at Jene’s Tropical Fruit Trees in St. Petersburg, who never ceases to amaze me with the patience and kindness he shows to every customer no matter how trivial or plentiful are their questions.  Truly unusual for a 21-year-old who could be out fishing on warm days in FL.

What do you think it takes to deliver stellar customer service regardless of the economy or the geography?  I believe it is a matter of attitude and outcome oriented thinking!  Unfortunately there seems to be a disconnect between the “service” and the “customer” part of the term.  In contrast to the above stellar examples, I had what I consider to be a good example of customer non-service – from an industry hit hard by the lack of consumer discretionary spending – the entertainment industry.  I point out my experience with The Largo, Florida’s Eight O’Clock theatre. Here’s what happened: a friend gave me tickets to their production of Gypsy (she had to buy a second set of tickets when she found out her first tickets were for the wrong date).  I asked her what time was the performance and she said Sunday at 8pm (It’s Eight o’Clock Theatre after all) – and thanked her for the tickets. It was my mistake not to check the tickets myself, and subsequently my sister and I missed the performance which was actually at 2pm on Sunday.  Hoping for some relief (perhaps we could attend another performance where they had lots of unsold tickets) I phoned and was told that it was unfortunate but “the money has already come and gone through here” and that theatre-goers often completely forget about their tickets and become no-shows, (I have to admit that I missed the relevance to my situation).  There was no empathy but the rep did remind me about their no-exchange/no-refunds policy. She encouraged me to visit their website and buy further tickets for another upcoming productions.  While Ms. Stick-to-the-Rules was correct in her strict recitation of the rules, it will be a long time before I visit their website or attend a future production. It would have cost the theatre nothing to give me future tickets (or even offer a reduction for a future performance) on a traditionally slow night or at least commiserate with me, but the agent preferred to put short-term revenue ahead of building customer loyalty.  Instead I’ll tell others about the experience and I’ll avoid such an encounter again. While I support my community and small business – it’s really their loss, (and maybe wonder why their box-office sales don’t soar!)

What is your experience?  Have you received stellar customer service from someone who went out of their way for you?  Do you find that customer service has increased or degraded since the start of our U.S. recession?  Post a comment – I’d love to know if my experiences are shared by others!

Have a good week and I hope you receive stellar customer service that surprises you somewhere this week!


Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

Copyright 2010 Carol Dekkers – All Rights Reserved ———————

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