Friday, January 29, 2010

Customer Relations in the Time of E-Mail

Things are starting to come together.  I've been so busy messing about with emails about my move, phoning, trying to get quotes, that I haven't had a minute for the writing this week. Once things are more or less in hand, I'll get back to it, calm and relatively undistracted, she said.

(Grumbly stuff follows) In this day and age (as my mother liked to say), isn't it strange that customer service is worse than it was before the advent of the internet?  I know this, because I was around then, running an office, a household, using the phone and an occasional letter to arrange things, and getting a prompt response and real help.

In my efforts to get quotes from moving companies, I've done several online forms, and emailed, according to their requirements, and only one has been in touch with me so far.  Back in days of yore, friendly, almost eager people would phone within a day or two to say they'd noticed me, heard from me, appreciated me, whatever - and would be back in touch in due course. This is certainly not my experience in 2010. People just don't bother to respond at all, in most cases. Perhaps they don't like where I live. I don't have too much in the way of goods to move, so perhaps the value of it isn't worth their while. Couldn't they just say that? Perhaps someone in the office doesn't open emails. Someone in the office certainly doesn't follow up on phone messages. Oh, Yikes! I could go a little crazy here. There's no point in complaining, either, because they're not going to respond to that, and who do I complain to? What's with the world?  It's become so darned anonymous!

Now, on to my poor cats' travel arrangements.  This involves flying and is stressful for all of us, particularly me.  I need a pet transport company that's concerned for both the pet and the guilt-ridden owner. There aren't many companies around here that will handle everything door to door, but I managed to get responses from two, of the four I contacted. The first was very sweet, but confused me with all her details so early in my querying. I'm a plodder, and like to do things as they are about to present themselves. She wanted to load me down with the lot in a half-hour phone call, had me scribbling down all this stuff, until I thought, "Wait a minute...I need to get her to send me this detail, not write it down myself." I think she was a bit miffed when I said that, and then she proceeded to repeat everything all over again, as if I were a rather inattentive child.

Second company seemed good, much more practical, got to the point, although we still talked a lot of detail for a good hour, but I was happy. I needed to phone her back the next day with some more information. She didn't have the foggiest idea who I was, or where my "file" was. Our first conversation had been quite friendly, with family anecdotes, so I was bewildered by her apparent amnesia.  I mean, what if she forgets where my cats are going, when the time comes? She took my name and number again, and will "get back to me". Nothing so far...(Grumbly stuff ends.)

If any of you are contemplating the start of your own business (which I hugely endorse! I don't believe in working for the man, unless times are desperate), customer relations and providing that extra service is the most valuable skill you can have, or develop. Form a good working relationship with your client, and they will love you and trust you, even if you still have to learn something new for the job! They'll forgive you that, because you stay in touch with them, give them regular reports, follow up, ask questions, remember their names, and check to see if they are satisfied.   Imagine if we found agents like this? I'd be their love-slave for life...

So much for my so-called writing blog. Odd one today. You'll have to put up with me going off course for a while. I'll be back to my normal me soon enough, I guess.



My dear J.D. Salinger has gone. Because he was rarely seen in his solitude in the depths of New England, only his 60s photographs are available to us, and so he remained broodingly handsome and cool - a term coined back then, by the way - to the end. (I always thought he looked more like a jazz musician than a writer.) They say he had some fifteen manuscripts locked in a safe, because he hated to publish.  His estate will burst into the headlines if this proves to be true. Imagine having a new Salinger book in your hand. Imagine Google licking its corporate lips in anticipation...

Enjoy the sun, if you have it. We do. Very cold, but bright and beautiful.

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