Friday, July 30, 2010

Reach Out To Yourself!

I want to reach out to all of you folks about the phrase "reach out," the latest corporate buzzword.  It's getting to the point where when anyone says this, my brain translates it to "retch out."

Let me provide you with a couple of examples of this:

Back in November, 2008 in my blog posting "Alien" a gentleman from Time Warner Cable said, "I asked, internally, if you could be put on a list for the new tuning adapters and was told that someone would be reaching out to you." (italics are mine)  This really didn't result in anything special.  In fact, I don't think I ever had someone contact me regarding the adapters until they were shortly released to any subscriber who needed one (I was called in the course of obtaining service).

A representative of a very large network equipment manufacturer (guess), in talking about a ridiculous hardware maintenance issue, and my suggestion that he meet with me and my manager, said, "I will reach out with [manager's name] next week to set a time for an introduction.  I look forward to it."  Reach out with?  I don't want someone to "reach out" to me.  I want them to do their stinking job and solve my darn problem ("issue"...if you will)!

I imagine that the "reaching out" comments partly originate from at&t's old "reach out and touch someone" slogan, and partly from the concept of one person seeing another person in need of help and would reach out to that person to help (such as if I'm drowning).  In the latter case, the term implies this is a charitable effort, something that is above and beyond the call of duty.

When someone in a business is providing me with customer service, they are not reaching out to me.  They are doing their job.  They may feel that they're giving me charitable treatment, and if they are then I really need to think again about whether I want to continue to do business with that organization.  I'm not a charity case - I'm a customer for heaven's sake.  Doesn't that mean anything in today's society?  Provide me with quality goods and services at a fair price, and if you screw-up somewhere, then just fix it!  Don't reach out to me!  I'm not drowning!

This may really be a sign of the times, though.  It seems like businesses are more motivated by short-term profits than long-term customer relationships.  Surely profit is important, but without customers you have no profit (unless you're running a dishonest or unethical business).  If I'm subscribing to cable service and it isn't working properly, and you use a lot of business buzzwords like "reaching out" to say you're trying to fix it, it is an insult to me.  Properly working cable service is what your business is supposed to provide.  If I contact that certain very large network equipment manufacturer (let's just call them "C") because they told me that two $100,000 routers have reached end-of-life and couldn't be covered under a maintenance agreement even though the same equipment is allegedly still for sale on their web site, then I want answers and what I can do to maintain my employer's $200,000 equipment investment.  If I told you, my readers, what C's account manager finally provided as an answer to this problem your head would probably explode.  They can fill my e-mail with all the business buzzwords in the world, but if they don't ultimately deliver, then those words are meaningless.  The term "reaching out" has become a meaningless phrase to me at this point.

The whole idea of customer service has become a joke.  Businesses don't even take it seriously as they feel it is such a secondary part of what they do that it is frequently outsourced to people in other countries.  Most people groan at the idea of calling customer support, because they know that the person on the other side is generally just trained to pacify the customer and read solutions from a scripted text.  I don't feel like an important customer, I feel like an irritation to the business...and frankly, I think that's what I am in their eyes.

Now to pay attention to Judy's request to say something positive.  I recently had a positive experience with Hunter Douglas window coverings online customer support.  The mechanism that opens and closes two of the blinds on my windows at home broke (the part that the "wand" attaches to broke because it wore out after 14 years).  The part (called a tilter) didn't have a part number and all I had was a vague description of the part.  Within a couple of days, someone responded to me, sent me a PDF document with a picture of the various tilters that looked like the one I described, and asked me to identify it and let them know what the part number was next to the picture.  When I did respond, in a day they replied and told me they would replace the part for free.  Hunter Douglas window coverings are expensive, but having a response like this is worth the expense.  While I'm sure the part is only about $15 or so, I actually felt like a valued customer.  I felt like these blinds were manufactured by a company that stood behind the quality of their product.  This is a company I would continue to do business with.

...and Hunter Douglas didn't even need to reach out to me.

No comments: