We’ve all had friends in our circle who were known as “Mary & John”, and when “John” split “Mary” was alone. Mary was the “odd” number at the dinner party and we were all concerned about her.  Well, today it seems that the union of Customer & Service have had a breakup.  Service has split and Customer is on his/her own.

Today, let me tell you a story that many of you will find humorous but is all too common.  I can tell you this without fear of our local editor getting sued because it’s about me, but business owners take note that you don’t fit the profile of company “X”.

Four weeks ago I decided that I needed another green recycling can from my trash pickup company.  We’ll call them Brown Keg Trash Pickup, an anonymous company in the interest of avoiding litigation. I called their Customer Service number, and as an environmentally conscious citizen requested my extra recycle can.  The cheerful voice on the other end of the line chirped, “Of course, we’ll have one delivered in 48 hours.”  After giving her all the pertinent location information, I hung up the phone with the satisfied feeling of a good citizen.

I arrived home about 5 p.m. the next day and  I was happy to see another green can at the mouth of my driveway.  When I looked again, I noticed that I had another green can – but it was without a lid.  I quickly dialed my cheerful telephone voice at Brown Keg Company thanking her graciously for the rapid service and then told her about the missing lid.  Just as cheerfully as the first time, she told me to leave it at the end of my driveway after my usual trash pickup and they would replace the entire unit since they didn’t have extra lids.  I agreed, and after hanging up the phone I pondered their plight of having lidless cans but no extra lids.  I conjured up all sorts of scenarios that explained where all the lids to the lidless cans went, and sympathized with their predicament.

Well, 3 days went by and there sat my poor, green, lidless can at my driveway’s mouth and a replacement never arrived.  Feeling empathy for this green plastic waif, I returned it to the side of it’s brother that had a lid.  I called my cheerful Customer Service voice again, and reiterated the plight of my poor lidless can and after a chuckle she assured me a complete unit would be forthcoming.  I found it necessary to make use of my lidless friend, and put it out the next pickup day filled to the brim.  Fortunately, it wasn’t windy and all the contents remained inside it.  That was 2 weeks ago, and life being what it is other  more important tasks have occupied me until this morning when facing another pickup day I thought of my lidless friend.

Once more I picked up the phone and called my trash pickup company, and this time I listened to a litany of choices of buttons I could punch and chose my cheerful Customer Service button again.  I was transferred, listened to a brief melody when there was a “click” and I expected my cheerful voice to chirp “hello”.  The next thing I heard was another click, silence, and then the dreaded dial tone that means you’ve been disconnected.  Not being one of the “fainthearted”, I simply redialed my number.  Again there was the litany of button choices, my choice and the music, and just when I began to feel that all was right with the world I heard – “click”, “dial tone” and nothing.

This was not the morning for the phone to be playing games with me, so I made one more determined effort and REDIALED!  NASA, we have lift-off !”  I once more heard the litany of button choices, but this time I outfoxed that monotonous voice and punched “0”.  I asked for the Manager of Customer Service, I was given her name and was transferred.  What greeted my eager ear was, “You’ve reached the voicemail of ……., please leave your name and number and she’ll return your call.”

So here we sit – my lidless, green can and I facing another pick-up day.  This eager-to-serve plastic green waif must bravely face another dutiful day half-clothed.

You must admit that is an amusing story, and one that far too many of us have lived through, but what a sad commentary it is about our business community.  Doesn’t it make you wonder if our language has changed so drastically that what we interpret “Customer Service” to mean – is not what today’s business owners mean.  It makes me wonder when the marriage of Customer and Service broke-up, leaving us all the lonely ones.


Entrepreneurs and business owners take note!  If you’re going to have a number for your customers to access your Customer Service, please follow these rules.

  • Have the phone manned by an employee that can hear thunder and see lightening.
  • Give that employee training in helping the caller and not shuffling the problem to another desk.
  • Have an overseer, who can also hear thunder and see lightening, check that all incoming complaints were handled appropriately.

After learning how to find your customers and what they want; after getting them committed to doing business with YOU; and after wooing them to keep them as your customers – WHY WOULD YOU LET “SERVICE” DIVORCE “CUSTOMER?”

If your customers aren’t getting the service they require from you – your competitor will be only too happy to help them!


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