Consumers Speak: Good Customer Service From Local Boys

John Strong (really!) writes in with a story of the all-too-rare case of good customer service:

I know this is probably too long and not interesting enough but I don’t have an editor and I just felt like I had to tell someone. As a former AT&T customer, after getting screwed by Cingular one two many times and after dropping my phone (mpx200) into the toilet (an accident, don’t ask but yes it was a good time but how can you not have fun on a karaoke drunk bus). I did some research and decided on Verizon and the Motorola E815. It’s fairly hackable (to support OBEX and DUN) with good reception and free (actually -$25 from Amazon) with only a 1 year contract. I ordered the phone and being a good Amazon Prime consumer, I used the next day option because I can’t stand not being connected. Got the phone the next day and tried to activate it but no luck. Called up customer service and said the issue was probably my account wasn’t activated yet and try again later and if it still wasn’t working in the morning, call back. The CSR was nothing exceptional but above average for a cell phone company. Tried a few hours later and bingo, I’m connected and my chills begin to subside. The next morning I call to port my old number and got cheery, friendly and prompt (??) service. They said it would be a few hours but it should be done before lunch. Well, it’s after quitting time and no port yet. I call back and get the best service I’ve ever EVAH had. My call got routed to a local call center here in Portland, OR. I wish I could remember the CSR’s name but she was helpful, friendly, kept me on the phone the whole time, didn’t transfer me anywhere when she wasn’t also on the phone and didn’t let me off the phone until my old number was on my new phone. It took about 20 minutes total but it was the best 20 minutes I’ve had with any cell phone company which includes many wasted hours with Sprint, AT&T and Cingular. On some of the holds, we discussed her crocheting, our love of the local light rail system (called MAX here), the really cheap unlimited service her hearing impaired niece receives, the malls we like, etc. Not sure if it was the local connection that helped but I’m sure it didn’t hurt. Maybe there should be more small local call centers in metropolitan areas. It’s nice to talk a neighbor.

Customer service is an unenviable job. Not only is it dull but it makes you the company contact only when something has gone wrong, causing the representative to deal with irate or frustrated customers all day long. Which makes good customer services all the remarkable: not only has some representative managed to exceed beyond the deplorable level of his or her peers to actually help a customer (as opposed to merely putting them off or driving the customer off in frustration), but still managed to keep upbeat while bearing the brunt of a customer’s ire all day.

Here’s a question for our readers: what do you consider to be the biggest contributing factor in good customer service? Locality? A good company in general? Blind luck? If I were to answer the question, I’d say it actually has more to do with the attitude and insistence of the customer. I find I rarely get bad customer service because I know how to deal with customer service representatives: I am upbeat and sympathetic with what they have to go through, and I make extreme effort to follow even their silliest read-from-the-binder instructions, yet at the end of the day, I am politely unyielding in what it is that I expect from them. Most of the people I know who get bad customer service make the call angry and blow up at the soonest sign of friction; it sometimes seems to me a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. None of that excuses bad customer service — after all, their job is to deal with irate, pissed-off customers — but I tend to find the wheels can be greased pretty easily in the speedy resolution of a problem with just a little patience and goodwill. What do you guys think?