Customer Service

Who wouldn’t want him on their payroll? (New)
by George Pastidis

Working out at the gym the other day, I felt like I was totally running out of energy. I walked to the reception that one of the coaches I knew a little was sitting at and I asked for what kinda energy drinks they had on sale. The guy took me to the nearby refrigerators for walking me through my options.


They had quite many different types, brands and tastes of energy drinks. Whenever I have to make a decision in an area that I lack expertise, my usual and favorite question to the supposed to be subject matter expert is: “which one you like better?”.  Perhaps it’s naïve from my side but I think that showing I trust their opinion, they get more frank with me, recommending the very best. That was the case that day. That’s exactly what I asked the coach, willing to follow his recommendation with no second thoughts. He looked at the drinks, he raised his head and looking at me straight in the eyes, he said the unexpected: “None. I don’t use these. They all have much sugar”. Not that I didn’t know that most of these stuff have added sugar or other artificial sweeteners but it’s a whole ‘nother story to hear this like that right on the purchase moment from someone you know he knows. Especially when it happens to be a period of time that you wanna get rid of few excessive kilos.

I thanked him, smiling and I walked back to the bench I was working out, reflecting on this customer experience. Seeing things from my perspective, the customer’s angle, the guy was awesome. But what about his employer? What if the gym owner had overheard the conversation? Should he be happy about this? Had his employee done the right thing for the company he’s working for?

It didn’t take me much, wondering about the right answers. The answers were right there the moment I said before that the guy was awesome. He might have failed to cross-sell, pushing some high margin products but he made me want to renew my yearly contract which is about to expire soon. I know now that this gym has people I can trust, I can rely on and I can and I should seek out their advise and coaching. They’re not in some hit-and-run business. They care about their customers and eventually this way, they protect in long term their organization’s self-interests as well. Hell yeah everyone would want this guy on their payroll!

Where I am going to buy my next bike from
by George Pastidis

The lockdown got over in France two weeks ago and the weather was sunny and beautiful. Perfect timing for getting back to my biking habit. I jumped on my Orbea trekking bike and I headed to Verrières, a nice forest up on a hill only 4 km from my place. Few hundreds of meters before I reach my destination, I realized that I got a flat tyre. Never was a handy man. I walked the bike back and the very next day, I took it to the shop for fixing it. Same shop I had bought the bike from a year back.

There was a big line of people outside the shop due to the recent Covid measures. After waiting about 15 minutes, the same guy who had sold me the bike, told me that I have to make a phonecall and book an appointment. I started calling them every day with nobody answering the phone. They finally did answer it yesterday for telling me that they are very busy after the lockdown and the earliest I can get them my bike there is in the first week of July, meaning a month later. First, I tried to be nice explaining that I will lose half my summer like that. Then I tried my humor, saying gently that I am not looking in having an open-heart surgery with the top surgeon of France, I only want to get a five minutes job on my bike done. That didn’t work either. When that failed too, I tried to be pushier, raising the tone and telling them that this is not how they should treat a customer who paid in their shop 2,000€ a year back. Soon I realized that I have to end the call for not wasting my time and spoiling my mood and look for other solutions instead.

Few questions popped in my head though. How come people in nowadays where competition is so fierce can provide such a lousy customer service still? How hard is it to get in your customer shoes and just anticipate their needs? Don’t they get that sales and customer service cannot but go hand in hand? Isn’t obvious that someone could even afford paying a premium, within a range of reason of course, for enjoying the right customer experience?

Half an hour later a French colleague and neighbor who I knew he’s very much into bikes, had set up an appointment with another local shop. The owner accepted to meet me during his lunch break because I couldn’t before or after. And me being impressed and feeling in debt for his responsiveness and awesome manners, besides fixing the flat tyre, I asked for an overall check and I bought accessories of 100€. I am supposed to pick up my bike tomorrow.

I think we all know where I am going to buy my next bike from.

Customer service is a tough job, but someone has to do it
by George Pastidis

Research says that when we’re happy with some customer experience, we tell 8 people. When we’re upset, we get a lot more vocal, telling 22 people, almost four times as many. I believe this research finding does not mirror how I do things. I like sharing both my ugly and pretty customer experiences. Today is the turn of an ugly one though.

A week ago, together with my wife, we visited an electrical appliances store, part of a major French chain.  We were interested in buying a vacuum cleaner and so we did. We left the shop with a cordless stick vacuum cleaner of 250€ which was supposed to have up to 45 minutes autonomy. The seller did share with us that the autonomy depends on the wattage you use it on. When we went home, we used it on max wattage and the actual autonomy was no more than 20 minutes. That was very disappointing. The very next day, we packed it and we went back to the shop to ask to return it and get another one, with cord this time.

The first officer we expressed our request to, said with a gloomy face: “No. We cannot take it back. You have used it”. We pushed back of course and then the seller we had bought it from, showed up. In my question “why he had not been specific, sharing how much the actual economy can drop when used at max”, he responded: “you did not ask me”. When I confronted his argument, his manager who had joined the tensed discussion, said to me: “he is a trainee. He is learning”, leaving me to wonder how come I have to pay for his training. Isn’t his employer who is supposed to do that? It is worth pointing out of course the blasé style and the whole rigid attitude that accompanied the above socking lines.

We left the shop, apparently very much pissed off and determined never to come back to a shop that we were repeated customers of with purchases of at least 2,000€ over the last four years.

Could they have taken it back? Probably not.

Could they have handled things different? Absolutely yes.

What could they do different?

  • Explain that they need to investigate the issue and ask some questions to us and to their colleagues for understanding better what has happened.
  • Take some time to consult their management before they claim their policy.
  • Explain why they cannot take it back. First explain the reasons and then refuse.
  • Propose some other options for making it up to us. Examples: Give us a fidelity card with free loaded with few credits, or a retroactive discount, or some promo gift. Stuff of no big value for them that would definitely make us feel like they do care about.
  • Explain what they will do next, ensuring that no customer will experience a similar situation again.
  • And of course, do all the above things, showing courtesy, empathy and demonstrating the right tone of voice and body language and not having the hand in the pocket while talking to us.

Nobody said that Customer Service is an easy job. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

What is the way to stop playing villain with customers?
by George Pastidis

Last weekend, I visited with family, beautiful Bruges. When we arrived in, I went straight to the reception saying: “Good morning. George Pastidis. Checking in”. The receptionist remained seated and said getting on a defensive mode for no reason: “It is 11 o’clock. The room cannot be available before 15:00”. No “good morning”, no “welcome”, no “smile”.
Two days later, when I was checking out to another receptionist, I complained about the room’s  bad odor coming from the drains. The receptionist said: ”OK I’ll let them know”.


Is this the way to treat guests?
Is this the way to provide customer service?
Is this the way to bring business?

No way!!

There is no doubt that every organization has its processes. And customers often cross the limits, coming up with unrealistic requests. The idea is neither to play “villain” with them nor to allow being the “victim”. The idea is to have the right balance and provide the right level of customer service in a way to give value to customer and at the same time get value for your organization. The recipe is simple. Be polite, show empathy, take responsibility (if any), identify the problem, demonstrate genuine interest in tackling the issue, take action and give feedback.

So, what is the way?

Let’s zoom in the second incident for giving you a potentially good script that my beloved receptionist could have used:

“I am sorry to hear that sir. It is a pity you did not share with us before.  Maybe we could have changed you room. May I ask a couple of questions in order to understand the source of the problem? Are you going back to your room now? You mind if come with you so I can make sure I understand exactly where the odor comes from and get it fixed?”

You take good notes and you ask a couple of clarifying questions demonstrating effective listening and you end it like this: “Thank you sir, I will inform our plumber and management. I am sure that next time you visit, everything will be just fine and we will definitely find a way to make it up to you. May I have your email so we can give you feedback?”

A week later, the guest should receive an email signed by the Hotel Manager. The Manager thanks the guest for the visit, explains what the issue was and how it was resolved and that next time he visits, he would like to meet him and thank him in person for the valuable feedback, offering a room upgrade.

Isn’t this the way?

One story, one issue and two reactions
by George Pastidis

Last Saturday, I visited with family Epernay, the capital town of Champagne. We wanted to have dinner at a nice place and early in the afternoon, we checked out many restaurants, both visiting them and going through the Trip Advisor reviews and rankings.

Finally, we booked in one of them using the on-line service of Trip Advisor & TheFork. When we visited the place (right on time), we were told that there is no reservation made for us. When we showed the confirmation email we had, they told us “sorry but when they approached us, we declined because we were fully booked”. They were not rude but they did not try to give a solution either. They showed no empathy to a family with a ten year old kid, they did not try to make some space, they did not tell us to try to go later, they did not propose to go back on Sunday. They did literally nothing. They did nothing but blaming Trip Advisor.

I emailed Trip Advisor & TheFork explaining and complaining about the incident. They apologized and blamed the restaurant for not updating their availability status frequently and promptly. My next move was to use Trip Advisor’s application and write a review about the restaurant, being very tough on all the parties involved in. I actually wrote a review that I did not expect to see getting publicized.

However, Trip Advisor proved to be a pleasant surprise. They proved they have the strength and courage to take tough feedback and they let my review go on public. I was about to stop using their application and services but their reaction made me a sponsor of theirs.

My Summer 2015 balance sheet
by George Pastidis

Summer is finished and so is vacation. We are all back home full of pictures and experiences. We got to use plenty of different services such as travel agents, hotels, ferries, planes, restaurants etc, enjoying both good and bad customer experiences. We had great customer experiences that exceeded our expectations and lousy ones that disappointed us. I want to share with you two of them. The extremes. The very best one and the worst. I will start with the latter.

I was in a ferry going to my favorite Aegean island of Naxos. I had too much time to kill and no book to read. Spending time in facebook was an option but I had no data roaming. I checked with a crew member and I was told that I had to pay for it at the reception. Although it was little money, I thought that it was in principle wrong given that I had paid about 350€ for the family round trip tickets.  But I was getting too bored and I went for it.

The line at the reception of people looking for a cabin or some kind of seat upgrade was both long and slow. Could not understand why I had to wait there for a purchase of 3€. Thirty minutes later, when it was my turn, I had my chance to express my complaint about the silly process. The reply I got from the Chief Purser was: “That is the process and there is nothing I can do about it”.

This is not the end of story though. As soon as I got access to wifi, I emailed the shipping company, explaining in detail my experience and the way my complaint was handled.  Well, they never got back to me!

But my summer stories need to have a happy end.

I love Naxos for three reasons: good friends, awesome beaches and great food.

You can find pretty much everywhere and in the mountainous villages in particular, lovely tavernas with excellent local cuisine. Many of them have managed to build a reputation and there are cases that you have to reserve a table at least two days ahead. But our top experience did not occur in one of those popular ones.

In the tiny and less known village of Kato Potamia, Manolis and Gianna own a little outdoor only taverna that they did not even bother to give it a name. We parked our car few hundred meters away. Walking towards the taverna, the smell of jasmin and other night flowers put us in the right mood. We reached a nice and neat yard with tall pine trees and a nice mountain view. Our kids had plenty of space to play without bothering other guests. I remembered the first time I visited the place, ten years back. The owners’ children were little and they were playing ‘theater’!

The menu did not have a huge variety. Few stuff, I would say. But with genuine local ingredients, and meat grilled exceptionally by Manolis. Gianna was a great hostess and the lady that waited our table was polite ad quick. In the very end, Gianna had a pleasant surprise for us. She cooked for us and treated us with moscharaki kokkinisto (the Greek version of Boeuf Bourguignon) and galaktoboureko (a Greek dessert of semolina custard in phyllo).

Was the taverna spectacular? No, it wasn’t.
Was it unique? Certainly not.
Was it luxurious? Hell no.

It was good enough though to make a company of fifteen adults and children leave the place with all their senses fully satisfied and agree that it was the best taverna of summer 2015.

Summer vacation stories
by George Pastidis

Most often we choose to share negative customer service experiences. Don’t we?

We tend to talk about bad things that happened to us. Probably this way we channel out our anger and that makes us feel a little better. I do that. Similarly often though, I like sharing good customer service experiences. A month ago, I visited Andros island with my family.

We had rented a small apartment of a villa in Batsi. We had never stayed there before and the place was not recommended to us. It was only a random pick from the web relied on our gut feeling. When we arrived, Mrs. Nana, the owner and manager of Villa Arni, was there to welcome us politely and warm. She had prepared a welcome basket of local olives, figs, spirit and nuts and homemade marmalade and sweets and she had put a bottle of local spring water in the refrigerator. She also had a map full of tips about where to swim and eat and what is worth seeing and visiting during our stay. She was there every day, answering any question. Even when I asked her where I could go for spear fishing octopus, she checked with an expert and came back with the right answer. The room itself was marvelous. She had painted herself drawing awesome flowers all the closets. The towels were impressively soft and they had an amazing scent. When we told her that we had to leave two days earlier than what we had initially booked, she did not complain at all and she remained as polite and friendly as before. No wonder why she had rented the room an hour later.

I have another little summer story a French colleague and friend shared with me. He visited Naxos island with his family. He came back full of enthusiasm telling me that his experience was by far better than the one him and his wife had 15 years ago in Greece and he gave me one little example. When they arrived in the island, they were expecting to see the usual room to rent people advertising themselves. For some reason, there was nobody there. They checked with the only one taxi driver that was there seeking for help. The taxi driver called through his own mobile phone and found them a place to stay that proved to fine. The taxi driver had already another customer going to a totally different destination. So he called again a colleague of his asking him to come and pick them up and he never left them alone. He first made sure that his colleague came and picked them up and then he left! Now, my friend and his wife consider even buying property in Naxos.

We do not need much really to be satisfied. We do not need fancy, unique and really unexpected stuff to be pleased and become repeat guests and customers. We need only few simple things. Good manners, smile and genuine care.

Those do the job. Don’t they?

Only if Greece is playing a hot football match

Last Tuesday, I flew to Madrid, planning to return same day.
World cup did not let me go to bed early the night before and I had an early morningwake up alarm clock ring at 0430 for catching my 0700 flight.
I flew to Madrid with one hour delay that did not affect my business that went all smooth.After a tiring but satisfying day, I headed to Madrid airport wishing to have no delays since Greecewas facing Ivory Coast later in the evening.
Wishful thinking!! French air traffic control was on strike and there my nightmare started…
Announcements were only in Spanish…French, Italians and of course the Greek were trying to understand what is going on from the grapevine.
We boarded with one hour delay.
We were kept in the plane with no water and air conditioning one more hour and then we disembarked.
Flight was cancelled.
One airline employee dealing with more than 100 people. The employee was skilled and professionalbut not enough.
I lined for 2 hours waiting for my hotel accommodation and next day flight to be arranged.
Others, less lucky, had to wait 4 hours and then fly next day to Paris through Rome.
Co-passengers were getting in line fights.
I checked in my Hotel at 0200 and I had a 0500 wake up call.

One thing got me going. The texts I was receiving about Greece winning the match.
We made the pre quarter finals and that made me think that even in tough times, one little bright thing isenough to make you stand everything. Of course you cannot have your national team winning every day , every time. You can have though serious organizations, with adequate human resources, brilliant plan and rightprocesses pre-designed for dealing with such situations.
I am sure that the strike was pretty much expected and many things could have been pre-handled.
If plan matches with the right attitude and behaviors (that was there) then people will stand in line less time and of course still smiling…still preferring and recommending the same airline next time.

Me now? Never again….No way…unless Greece is playing a hot football match!!

8 thoughts on “Customer Service

  1. Pingback: Would you prefer or recommend again this airline? | George Pastidis

  2. Pingback: Summer vacation stories | George Pastidis

  3. Pingback: My Summer 2015 balance sheet | George Pastidis

  4. Pingback: One story, one issue and two reactions | George Pastidis

  5. Pingback: What is the way to stop playing villain with customers? | George Pastidis

  6. Pingback: Customer service is a tough job, but someone has to do it | George Pastidis

  7. Pingback: Where I am going to buy my next bike from | George Pastidis

  8. Pingback: Who wouldn’t want him on their payroll? | George Pastidis

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