Anyone who has done business with or worked with me knows that I take customer service very seriously. In business I don’t create policies that aren’t customer friendly and I don’t tolerate team members who don’t embrace my “above and beyond” philosophy for making a customer happy.
I created the “above and beyond” concept of customer service when I started my first business in 1994:
- Give your customer’s the service they not only expect, but deserve.
- Exceed your customer’s expectations in every interaction.
- Treat every customer with the same courtesy you would expect in return.
Thirty-eight days ago I embarked on a journey that right up until the very last minute, proved to me that customer service may be dead. Some businesses and their employees just don’t get the fact that if it weren’t for customers, they wouldn’t have a paycheck.
My journey begins with my desire to move from Palm Beach further south to Delray Beach, FL. I enlisted an awesome Realtor, Scott Stiepleman, from Keyes Realty, who came highly recommended from a close personal friend of mine (thanks for the referral Pam!).
When Scott found me the perfect place to call home it was time to arrange financing. Using his recommendation, I called AmTrust Home Mortgage, who is a big lender in southern Florida and has several offices in the area. Scott worked with them in the past and never had any issues with them. Until now.
Before I get into the details, I want to be perfectly clear that southern Florida has seen a tremendous amount of foreclosures, short sales and real estate crises’ due to the overbuilt market. Banks have the right to be picky with who they lend to down here but that does not give them the freedom to treat customers like, well, you know what.
When I called the mortgage broker, who I will call “Betty,” she was more than happy to get my business and promised that we can make this deal happen quickly, painlessly and within the 30 days as stipulated in the sales contract. Her responsiveness in the beginning was great. Phone calls and emails were answered quickly and voice mails were returned promptly. But once the commitment was there and it was too late for me to start looking for another lender, Betty became the prime example of customer service gone bad.
Along with the standard application, I had to provide volumes of information detailing my finances and business interests for the underwriting department. The requested information was always sent within hours.
Betty, however, seemed to have a problem keeping all the information I would send her. On at least three separate occasions, Betty requested information that she already had received, sometimes requesting the same information multiple times! Several times I replied to her request with, “you already have that” and would receive a, “you’re right, sorry.”
In the middle of the process, Betty went on vacation. Talk about throwing a monkey-wrench into things. While she was away, her replacement took over and started asking for things that Betty already received once or twice.
Knowing that we had 30 days to close the deal, I was becoming increasingly frustrated with Betty. Emails went back and forth between her, Scott, my attorney Todd Surber from Independence Title and the seller’s agent. We all were getting frustrated and just wanted to get to closing and put this behind us, but the nightmare continued.
I reached my limit when seven days before closing, I get an email from the person handling the closing at AmTrust asking for my email address. Yes, I received an email asking for my email address!
Closing was scheduled for Friday, October 16th and it was supposed to be done via FedEx since I would not be able to be there in person. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, all of us were asking Betty, “are we closing on Friday?” With no answer coming from Betty, my attorney had no choice but to file for an extension, with the closing date moved to Tuesday, October 20th. This did not make me, the seller and the seller’s agent happy, but what choice did we have, we were at the mercy of AmTrust.
11am Tuesday arrives. All interested parties are gathered to make the deal happen. Papers are signed but AmTrust did not wire the money needed to close. Frantically, everyone starts calling Betty to find out what happened. Guess what? Betty is nowhere to be found. Her office line rings to voice mail (which she finds time to update on a daily basis with the “today is Tuesday, October 20th and I’m in the office all day” greeting, but she can’t find time to return a phone call). Her cell phone rings but goes to voice mail as well.
After trying for an hour to reach someone at AmTrust, we were able to contact the person who emailed me for my email address. She then initiated the wire transfer and funds were disbursed ending the worst customer experience I ever encountered.
Betty violated every principal of my “above and beyond” philosophy for customer service:
- She did not give her customer the service he not only expected, but deserved.
- She did not exceed her customer’s expectations in every interaction.
- She did not treat her customer with the same courtesy she would expect in return.
But most importantly, Betty made her company look bad and turned off a brand-new customer. For all I know, AmTrust could be the best bank to deal with. But for me, Betty was AmTrust and my experience with her makes me believe that they are not the best bank to deal with.
The team that I had working for me, Scott and Todd, went above and beyond and I would recommend them to someone looking to buy or sell a home. Betty could have turned this experience into an opportunity to gain future business not only from me but also from Scott and Todd, but I don’t think that will be happening anytime soon.
In today’s economy, businesses are all fighting for the sale. Times are tough and we all need to work harder to gain our customer’s trust and ultimately their business. If you’re company has a “Betty,” you may not know it until it’s too late and she costs you business. It may be time for you to give your business a customer service checkup. How?
- Sit in your customer service department for a day and listen to what goes on and how your people interact with customers.
- If you have the capability to monitor customer service calls, do it!
- Review your customer service policies and see if they are “customer friendly” or brick walls.
- Talk to your customers! Pick some at random and call them to learn about their experience with your company.
All of us work hard day in and day out to make a sale and earn a buck. Don’t let a “Betty” come between you and your company’s success.