Part of me is ashamed of the way I behaved in a Verizon Wireless store this morning. That would be the peace-loving, empathetic human being who just wants everyone to have a nice day. The 'mama tigress protecting the den and making sure we get our fair share' part of me triumphed.
After I encountered two different glassy-eyed, ice-encased representatives at Verizon Wireless, I started to talk sharply about the different way I've been treated at AT&T until the manager came over and let me order a free replacement for my son's four-month-old failing phone. I could tell the first two representatives had been carefully trained to rebuff customers asking to replace phones within warranty. I kept trying to make eye contact with the human being inside, but they were clearly under orders to be firm and fight back against what must be a flood of broken smart phones.
When I got back home, I found a column in Colloquy magazine (excerpt below) that highlighted the situation from Jim Sullivan, who brought a broken iPhone into an Apple Store. The staff were sympathetic from the beginning, not promising to replace the phone, but empathetic with his frustration. Then they pulled up his account, saw how much he'd spent on Apple products, dropped the analysis and replaced the phone without question.
The point I'd like you to see is that Verizon either consciously or unconsciously taught the staff to distrust me. A few soothing 'that's too bad' comforting comments would have calmed me and encouraged me to share in the repair expenses. I know I'm not an important customer of Verizon, but I felt very unloved, as Jim explains below.
When I speak of love in a business context, I mean cheerful service to others. One fascinating aspect of the service brand experience is that it rests on intangible and often emotional factors. Cues, clues, and their influence on our senses often determine the final consumer perception of quality as much or more than the tangible aspects of the delivered service. Also interesting is that the provider and the consumer of services must work together for the service to be delivered. The relationship, and the way it makes the customer feel, are of central importance to the overall experience.
I am reminded of Danny Meyer's video on hospitality. Visitors to his famous restaurants experience hospitality when they believe the waiters are 'on their side.' We all know how hard it is to achieve excellence and get the most for our money. We don't demand the representatives of a company be perfect. We just want them to emphathize with us and to fight to get us what we deserve.