I am a walking Starbucks stereoptype. I use my Starbucks app daily, to ensure that I am never far from a trusted barista. My app makes sure that I get my free coffee after 12 purchases, as if it is some fabulous accomplishment to drink north of 200 ounces of coffee on a fairly regular basis. I am the customer in front of you in line, who orders the ridiculous sounding drink, that always elicits an eye roll. (For quick reference in case you want to buy me one, I order a venti decaf skinny moche latte extra hot (seriously, I couldn't make that up).
So given my relationship to Starbucks, imagine my dismay when my Starbucks app mysteriously malfunctioned the other day. All of the sudden, my coveted rewards number WAS MISSING. The app said "CARD REMOVED". Seriously? I mean, I had worked at this coffee drinking thing. I had "achieved" Gold Rewards level -- and let me tell you, they don't give that out to just anyone.
So, I spent an inordinate (and potentially embarassing) amount of time checking and rechecking my account settings on my phone and my computer. I googled for the answer to this vexing problem. B To my utter amazement, my "research" revealed that my particular problem could only be solved by going "old school", speaking to a customer service agent. Now at this point, I was skeptical. As we all know, many companies have made it very difficult to even find a customer service number, let alone actually a number that a human being answers. And lo and behold, within minutes, the heroic Russell from Starbucks, quickly and efficiently restored my app and my belief in the lost art of customer service. The world seemed to be turning smoothly on its axis once again.
So what to make of my enthusiastic, outsized reaction (which, by the way, describes many of my reactions) to Russell's personal attention (he really did care about me). Why was this so shocking to me? I mean if you are over 30 (my estimate as to the youngest people who can remember when you called a company to speak to a representative), I imagine you called many a company, and maybe like me, pressed "zero to speak to a representative." Companies spent years training us to call their 800 numbers and (sometimes patiently) wait for a knowledgeable, friendly, non-surly human who didn't act as if you had just woken him/her from a nap. And ultimately, your question was answered.
According to Christopher Elliott from USA today, I am not alone in my amazement. Our expectations for customer service are nearing rock-bottom, says Elliott. When focused on air travel, Eliott reports that "now passengers are stunned when a company does what it should have been doing all along, like getting you to your destination when it promised it would". Isn't that what an airline is supposed to do?
in the August issue of Real Simple, the Moneywise column reported the results of a 2013 Customer Rage Survey (again couldn't make that up). And it turns out, "68 percent of American households that experience a problem with a product or service reported feeling "customer rage." The article offers tips on how to actually reach human beings and how to interact with them to motivate them to help you solve your problem.
So what does this all mean? Are our standards too low from years of being ignored or mistreated by customer service -- both online and off? Or are there millions of Russells answering phones and e-mails with professionalism AND accurate information if only we knew which companies they worked for. Weigh in, but I can't promise I will get back to you as we are, as they say, experiencing an unusually high call volume. But remember, your comments are very important to me, so I will get back to you -- eventually.