Two Customer Service Surprises—One Good, One Bad

If the big companies are finally grasping the concept of customer service, can the small shop afford to ignore it?

There I was driving home from Beacon-News reporter Matt Hanley’s Aurora book signing when I got a hankering for a liver sausage and onion sandwich, heavy on the mustard and onions.

Then I have the nerve to wonder why nobody wants to get within 10 feet of me.

But before we head down that fascinating road, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Matt’s book, True Tales of Aurora Illinois. It’s a fascinating compendium of the people and stories that helped shape Illinois’ second city. You can order it right here.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch …

Given my propensity to eat healthy foods as well as my advanced age always making spicy or onion-laced food an adventure, liver sausage is not an ingredient I generally keep on hand. So rather than turn west at Fabyan, I headed straight into downtown Geneva in an effort to satisfy this semi-regular craving.

The place I chose wasn’t very busy—only a couple of tables were occupied, and I was the only individual in the order line. But as I tried to order this delightful delicacy, the young-ish employee assumed an exasperated expression and started rambling on about how my request was an imposition.

Fascinated, I simply stood there to see how it would play out. Of course, what I really wanted to say was, if she applied the time and effort spent complaining about my order to actually making my order, I’d already be out the door.

Perhaps responding to my bewildered look, she again asked what I wanted on it —heavy onions and mustard, I repeated—and finally set out to make my sandwich. Then she took my money without even shooting as much as a glance my way and walked away.

When I got it home, I took that highly anticipated first bite and all I tasted was bread and liver sausage. So I opened it up to find about four small strands of onion and two small patches of mustard.

After all that drama, I had to repair their ineffective handiwork.

Now, anyone can have a bad day, so I went to a couple of those online review websites to look the business up and, even if you consider it’s the disgruntled customers who tend to post, I was not nearly the only one who’s had to endure less-than-stellar customer service.

Since attitude and six bucks for an incorrectly made liver sausage sandwich with no accompanying pickle or chips is a wee bit much, I won’t be darkening that establishment’s doorway anytime soon.

Please don’t get me wrong, there are a plethora of downtown businesses that understand service is what separates them from Randall Road. And you can head into , , or to experience it firsthand.

But an alderman and I who occasionally discuss this issue are hearing more and more sad stories similar to mine.

The scary thing is, this shift is happening at a time when Randall Road is suddenly starting to get customer service religion. To wit, there was a great Aug. 16 Tribune article on how Lowe's and Home Depot have finally discovered what I’ve been preaching all along—spending time with shoppers translates into a better bottom line.

Just walk into either local iteration these days. It’s still a bit spotty, but more often than not a Lowe's greeter will immediately answer your questions. And you can’t make it through that Geneva Home Depot without at least one, and sometimes two or three, staffers asking exactly how they can help you out.

And this notion is going virtual, too.

There is no company whose customer service I’ve derided more that AT&T’s. Hour-plus holds, dropped calls, missed service calls, and staff that thought DSL stands for “don’t start listening” were among the numerous complaints.

So I was literally trembling as I stared at the touchtone pad wondering if I dared to even try and report our down DSL. After girding my loins, squinting really hard and inhaling sharply, I dialed the number just like you’d pull off a days-old Band Aid.

And to my utter shock and awe, I got Loret in a U.S. call center with not as much as nanosecond of hold time. Loret actually understood me when I told her I worked as a IT consultant for 17 years, and she didn’t make me go through an abundance of silly steps.

She immediately took the case to second level of tech support who in a mere 8 minutes, determined it was an outage on their end. Just a short half-hour later and my family was joyfully surfing the Net once again.

Apparently the reason it’s been so cold recently is because hell’s freezing over.

So please take heed, my esteemed downtown Geneva denizens. If those big box stores and major corporations are suddenly catching on to the better customer service phenomenon, it’s going to be that much more difficult for those who don’t understand that to compete.

Ordering a liver sausage sandwich should never become an ordeal.

Beth Bales September 11, 2012 at 01:38 PM
When I truly get a yen for a liver sausage sandwich, I buy just enough slices at Josef's to make one sandwich. That way the stuff isn't still in the refrigerator, tempting me.
Jeff Ward September 11, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Beth and Sandy, Perhaps some enterprising Geneva deli could come up with the "Jeff Ward" sandwich. It's an acquired taste, it's somewhat overpowering, and it keeps talking back long after you've eaten it. Perhaps you two are onto something! Jeff
Jeff Ward September 11, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Beth, I made the mistake of buying some at the store and I'm on the third sandwich in the last 2 weeks. I like your idea much better. Jeff
Sandy Klimowski September 11, 2012 at 03:46 PM
I like Beth's idea, too. Josef's here I come. And, of course, the sandwich has to be on rye bread!
Jeff Ward September 11, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Sandy, Make that white bread for me! And BTW, Rick loves liver sausage and onion sandwiches too. I thinkin' we have the makings of an exclusive club! Jeff


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