Quality Digest  |  10/29/2008


Curmudgeonly Customer Service

I often agree with Scott Paton’s columns bemoaning the state of customer service in America (“Customer Service?” “Quality Curmudgeon,” October 2008) Then there are times when something happens that gives you hope. Our 10-year-old daughter has several American Girl dolls. One of these dolls had a problem--her eyelash had come off. However, for a not-inconsequential fee, you can ship your American Girl to the “doll hospital” and have eyes, limbs, and even heads replaced in about two weeks. (I guess this is actual “plastic” surgery.) The doll returns, repaired, in a hospital gown, with a certificate of health and a get-well balloon. So, we sent the doll off from our home near Chicago on Friday, to the doll hospital in Middletown, Wisconsin. We were surprised to discover a doll-shaped box on our doorstep the following Wednesday--implying a stay at the doll hospital of a mere 24 hours. When opened, my daughter found her doll as promised with a new eyelash, in the hospital gown, with balloon and a clean-bill-of-health certificate. My wife and I were shocked to discover an additional item in the box--a letter from American Girl that stated, “You expressed concern that your doll required repair. Upon examining her, we agree with you that American Girl is responsible for these problems. Consequently, we will repair your doll free of charge.” My wife’s check was clipped to the letter. American Girl not only had the decency to admit to what was apparently a manufacturing defect, they also refused to take the money that they already had in hand. So yes, customer service does still exist in America. You go, Girl!

--Bill Fetter


About songs on hold: Every once in a while you get good music, but as soon as a favorite song that you haven’t heard in years comes on, you can be certain that a person will answer. There’s no telling how many times I get up to dance at my desk to an old song only to be interrupted by the rep I have been holding for! Why not schedule the interruption for the ABBA song three minutes before?

--Mark Magnan


I almost laughed out loud at Scott Paton’s customer service commentary. I say almost, because it was so right on the money that it isn’t really funny. I’ve had the exact same experience Scott described, down to the letter, more than once. I decided long ago that the complex customer service systems used by many companies are designed that way on purpose to discourage consumers from making complaints. It’s the only explanation. After all, responding to complaints is time- consuming and often expensive, especially if a company is genuinely in the wrong. I’m sure that most people just give up in frustration, and as long as they do, we can expect the same mediocre service (and products) that we have come to accept.

--Janet Lentz


Summer Vacation

Your article was a good read (“What I Did on My Summer Vacation,” William J. Kalmar, October 2008). I find it hard to believe that you had so many good customer service experiences without more unfavorable interactions. Maybe you’re an optimist as I believe myself to be. However, here in the New York metropolitan area my experience is different. For every occasion of good customer service, there is an equal if not greater number of poor service interactions. Although I will not address your suggestion pertaining to Chinese products, I do believe that the reason for so many unemployed or underemployed Michiganites is that our labor unions have not yet entered the customer service debate in a meaningful way. They continue to avoid their responsibility for participating in the realignment of financial incentives that will enable us to move from a focus on entitlement to one in which the objective is world leadership in business performance.

--John Mamangakis


Busyness Professionals

Your commentary was certainly well-developed (“Busy,” “First Word,” Mike Richman, October 2008). I myself keep up with excellent publications like Quality Digest only when I travel or am trying to keep my face out of the refrigerator at night! I found several items extremely interesting, and I’m only on page 12.

First, being busy… although I appreciate that companies should work with employees to ensure adequate time to work on “A” activities instead of “C” activities throughout the day, some leading organization actually do so. Take for example Bronson Methodist Hospital, a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award winner in 2005. Bronson offers employees concierge service--simply leave your keys with the group, and your oil will be changed (the employee pays the actual price of the oil change). Certainly focusing on quality has been aimed not only at patients but also at the quality of life of Bronson’s employees.

--Penny Weller


It’s about time someone said it. My organization thinks that the quality assurance department is supposed to handle all the little stuff that another manager couldn’t handle. Before you know it, you’re behind with your work, and then management wonders why. Why am I the only manager doing every other manager’s job?


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