The WORST Customer Service Comment In the History of the World!

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I felt like I was the lead actor in a surreal reality television show. A show about the real-life, almost unbelievable customer service experiences of a motivational speaker who just happens to talk about how to provide exceptional customer service.  Grab your popcorn.

When I walked into the Zoom Tan salon, he was standing behind the counter texting on his cell phone. He was wearing a shirt, completely unbuttoned in the front revealing a white scoop neck t-shirt underneath. It was the kind my Italian grandpa used to wear. I stood in front of him (for too long) and waited for him to look up. When he finally did, he said nothing. He just looked at me as if to say, “What?”

I told him my account name, which spray tan I wanted and to please include the optional “prep” spray. After entering data in his computer, he said to me, “Five dollars.” 

Okay, this is the part where I couldn’t help but notice that he had an accent. Why? Because I was born in the Bronx. And because he sounded like all my Italian relatives. I know that accent. I had that accent. So I figured he was either from New York or New Jersey. 

I told him that I shouldn’t owe him anything because I had a credit in my account.  He looked again at his computer screen and said, “No. You don’t got no money.” I asked him to look again as I was certain I did have money. Once more he looked and reported, “No.” Let’s just call him a man of few words.  A few sharp, flat, emotionless, no-eye-contact words.

I handed him my credit card and just as he was about to enter the info he said, “No. Here it is. You got credit.” I hesitated a moment expecting something like, “So sorry about that…” but – clearly that wasn’t going to happen. I ask for my credit card back and off I went.

As soon as I stepped into the booth, I realize that he did NOT program the PREP option. Rather than get dressed again to go back out and tell him about his omission, I make the decision to skip the prep and get a refund on my way out.

When I got back out to the lobby area, the man was having a clearly personal conversation with a woman.  I stood right next to the two of them and waited. They continued to talk. I continued to wait. Finally, I said, “I’m so sorry to interrupt, but it sounds like you are having a personal conversation and I have a business issue to address with you.”

Oh, baby. If looks could kill. He simply glared at me. I told him I didn’t actually receive the prep. He said nothing. No expression. He slowly went back to his computer, clicked around for about a minute and finally said, flatly, “Yes you did.”  

I replied, far more calmly than I felt, “I know I asked you for the prep, and I paid for the prep. I’m telling you that I didn’t actually RECEIVE a prep.”

After another round of him typing on his keyboard, he finally said, pointing to his screen, “This is April 10th. At 10:15 a.m. you got the prep with your tan. I can’t give you a credit for something you got.” 

All my calm, adult, professional brain cells started shriveling up at an alarmingly fast rate.

“Dude!” I exclaimed, “What is with you? From the moment I walked in you have been nothing but rude. No smile, no ‘hello’, ‘how can I help’, no ‘I’m so sorry you didn’t get that option. Let me fix that right now!’ Nothing!”

Again, without looking directly at me, he mumbled, “That’s because I’m not from Florida.” 

That’s when my brain flew out of my head and I knew it was probably gone for a while. I could see, hear and feel a bazillion thoughts all screaming to be let out of my mouth. They were all jockeying for first position so that when I opened my mouth – they would be in the best position to pummel this guy. I found it weird which set of words got out first:

Incredulously, I retorted, “You are not from Florida? You are not from Florida? Did you just say that? Oh God, please tell me there is a hidden video camera somewhere. I need a piece of paper. I need to write this down. You are not from Florida?

To which he replied, “I’m from New York. We don’t do ‘happy-perky.'”

More of my brain cells exploded and I shot back with, “Whoa. Number one – I’m from New York. Do NOT disparage people from New York. And number two – if you don’t do ‘happy-perky’, then get another job where it’s not required. Like ditch-digger. Pretty sure that’s not a job requirement for them.”

And after asking him several times for his manager’s name, when I finally got it, I turned on my heel and left the store.

Yes, I did follow up and speak to the district manager of all the Zoom Tans in our area and yes, she had the perfect attitude about everything. I told her my reason for sharing my experience with was that as a business owner, if I had an employee that treated my clients like that, I would want to know. I assumed she would too.  She really did seem grateful and appreciative for the information. She handled it very well. Kudos to her. Almost. (See number 4 below.)

Follow-up and take-aways

Since my job is to help people provide stellar customer service – the kind that makes people want to be your loyal customer for life and scream your praises to anyone who will listen – then I am compelled to deconstruct this experience and see what we can all take-away from it.

  1. Hire for attitude – train for skills. Your front desk, front line, face-to-face-with-customer people are reeeeeeally important. Hire people who have really great attitudes.  You can train the other stuff.
  2. Provide communication/customer service training Please oh please, do not just throw people onto the front desk or onto the phones and say, “Go!” Obviously you will give them the hard skills training like the computer and security systems. I’m talking about the soft skills like how to effectively communicate (both verbally and nonverbally) with your customers.
  3. “Happy-perky” isn’t an option. It’s a requirement. It doesn’t have to be overblown. It just has to be present – and sincere.
  4. Make things right. When something goes wrong, seize the opportunity to take your customer from very unhappy to very happy in short order. It would have been stellar if the district manager had said something like this to me: “Mrs. Larsen, I am so sorry this happened to you. Please let me know what needs to happen in order for you to love us again.” If I had been her, I would have also said, “Please know that, not only am I calling corporate and telling them they need to immediately refund your money, but I will be asking them to put ten free tanning sessions in your account. Would you like that?” Oh listen. I not only would have liked that, but my NEXT episode of this reality television-blog show would have featured how FANTASTICALLY Zoom Tan turned a pathetic situation into a stellar one. 
  5. Remember the power of social media.  So, I wonder…how many people will end up reading this post?

Thus concludes this episode of our newest reality television show (in blog format): 

“The REAL World of Customer Service –
The Stellar, The Mediocre and The Pathetic.” 

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A Smiling Linda Larsen

About Author Linda Larsen, CSP, CPAE

I became a professional actress and – for actual money – I got to occasionally escape to magical worlds created by everyone from Shakespeare to Moliere; from Shaw to Simon. I became a member of Actor’s Equity Association and the Screen Actors Guild and, as such, joined the ranks of hundreds of thousands of mostly unemployed starving actors. But I didn’t care! I was an actor!!! I had an actual Master of Fine Arts Degree that PROVED, by gosh, that I was supposed to know what I was doing.

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