Service Sucks!
Not By My Lights (Um, Keyboard)!

Vermont, 21 December 2007

Fact is, I made a small fortune in the mid-80s bitching and bitching and then bitching some more about customer service shortcomings. I was commonly referred to, from CA to Timbuktu, as the "king of customer service"—and given too much credit for putting this critical strategic issue on the map.

Therefore I applaud Steve Yastrow's post on Hilton's misbehavior. And applaud even more wholeheartedly the fantastic discussion responding to his Post—you'd do well to read all the Comments. (I did.)

Still ...

I got to thinking about all the sophisticated ideas stirred by the Post. And thinking about all the reporters who almost automatically ask me, "Why does customer service uniformly stink?"

Whoa, chummies!

Fact is, I think customer service is a pure marvel:

**On 21 December 2007 (today), a day before leaving the country, at 4 a.m., from my bed, in West Tinmouth, VT, iced in, wireless working, I readily finish my Christmas shopping. Sure, a lot of stuff can't make it by Christmas—but a lot can, enough to get the job done. (And the rest will arrive by the 27th or 28th, not bad by my shabby standards.)
**Last week at this time I was in Dubai, and woke up to the electronic news that a good friend and mentor had passed away. The memorial service was 72 hours later, in LA. Within the space of 20 minutes I had totally re-organized my 3-continent travel, made hotel reservations in LA, and was set to be where I wanted to be when I wanted to be there. (The email received about the service had of course included a map.) (Also, within a half hour, I'd arranged to meet a couple of good friends, one from England whom I hadn't seen for 10 or so years, at my hotel in LA to drive together to the service.) (Some elements of "customer service" are beyond the Web's power—despite my prayers, God decided to do his "blizzard thing," my travel plans imploded, and I missed the service.)
**Two interesting fellow speakers I met in Dubai and I are already at work on creating a mini-conference next Spring on the Web. (I'm almost certain that Spring will come, in spite of my VT picture above—if I light enough candles this Christmas at San Marco's in Venice.)
**Yesterday morning I read a squib on an unusual, older, out-of-print technical book that sounded cool. I'd ordered it 20 minutes later from some guy who lives in that most common of places these days—God Alone Knows Where. (Oh, and there's a 93% chance he'll come through.) (Another book I came across I decided not to order, thanks to 5 minutes perusing 10 or 15 peer-reviews at Amazon; the formal reviews—Publisher's Weekly, etc.—weren't worth a shit, as usual.)
**Talking to VT friends last week who recently finished building a small recreational house in Colorado. This summer they furnished the whole thing, good stuff for an insanely low cost, courtesy eBay—and on the trip out from VT had a jolly time collecting their acquisitions at various places where the eBay sellers lived. (Batting average with purveyors: 100%.)
**Guy who drove me from the airport to my hotel a couple of weeks ago had just started a wee business that involved very sexy recording equipment—in a 6-month period he'd acquired, from various addresses on the Web and after incredible Web research, about $75,000 worth of equipment, in mint condition, for a touch less than $10,000.

To be sure, one of my colleagues ordered her daughter a computer for Christmas, a big deal and total surprise. Delivery was absolutely, positively promised by today—when she checked yesterday, dear, dear Dell informed her it wasn't gonna happen. (Too bad she didn't consult with me earlier—I could have told her how much Dell service sucks; it's even worse post-purchase.) Susan's and my Christmas trip to Italy will be courtesy frequent flyer miles, and I don't need to tell you yet another tale of the pain involved in cashing in "customer loyalty" FF miles—on the other hand, it did work out in the end and enormously lessened our guilt about this indulgent trip.

So, yes, service horror stories, real "head shakers," abound. But as for me, circa December 2007, I am in "shock and awe" at what I can get done in the way of services (breadth and depth) that would have been unimaginable a scant decade ago.* (*And I do love it that a new Web service, boardfirst.com, will allow me, for $5, to automatically get "A" group reservations on Southwest for my insanely inexpensive post-New Year's Albany-BWI trip to see my 93-year-old aunt.)

Merry Christmas—my presents to you, dear close colleagues, will be arriving on time!