The Litmus Test of Customer Service (& A Little About Flags)

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” -Bill Gates

Customer service makes or breaks a business. Employee satisfaction is almost equally important, but if your staff is over-the-top joyful and no one is buying your product, your business will fail.

When I worked for Fedco in the 70s, their customer service policy was “The customer is always right.” Fedco was purchased by Price Club and not too many years later Price Club became Costco. It was a winning policy that created a very positive corporate culture leading to very happy employees, loyal customers, and a very successful business.

Sidenote: Fedco flew a HUGE flag above its building. You could see it for miles.

I challenge you to think of a business that doesn’t benefit from providing a great customer experience.

Putting the customer first is always good for business. But not everyone agrees with me.

The customer is NOT #1. – Marcus Lemonis

To be fair, Mr. Lemonis is attempting to make the point that happy employees tend to help develop happy customers, and he is correct on that point. Who wants to stand across the counter from a grump?

But as I indicated earlier in this post, a company with happy employees and no sales or no return (happy) customers does not a successful business make.

And after spending a year attempting to work with several of Mr. Lemonis’ Camping World locations, I wouldn’t describe the employees as happy (more like distracted) and I definitely wouldn’t describe the customer service as anything but abysmal.

So is there a “litmus test” to prove a company values customer service?

What about those times when something goes wrong, when the customer experience is not good, in fact, what happens when the customer service is terrible and even inexcusable? It happens to every company, the poor experience doesn’t mean the company is a bad company or consistently has terrible customer service, but how they handle the customer’s experience is the real litmus test of the quality of their customer service.

My first thought is the restaurant manager that comes to your table after a bad meal is served, with apologies, forgiveness of the check, and a gift card for your next visit. This has happened to me and I will return to any establishment with this type of customer concern aka customer awareness aka customer experience aka customer service.

Recently we had a terrible customer service experience with Camping World. And as you may remember, Camping World is owned by Marcus Lemonis, The Profit, a man who teaches business owners how to make a profit through many business practices including customer service.

Our Camping World saga has been going on for one year minus 10 days. ONE YEAR.

We dropped off our 10,000 Beds logo-wrapped RV for repairs on July 2nd, 2018 and 5 months later we had received little to no communication in spite of our calls, emails, visits….and even personally delivered home-made cookies. Three months later our RV was still sitting in a Camping World service lot, albeit a different one.

Meet Big Blue. Our 501c3’s outreach tool for the 10,000 Beds #ontheroad4recovery program. We provide hope and support to individuals and families battling addiction.

My husband and I attempted to meet with the general manager, he was never available and never returned our calls or emails. We sent emails to Marcus Lemonis at the 5 month point and never received a response.

So I tweeted.

And when I tweeted into the universe, Keystone stepped up. Keystone RV picked up our RV from Camping World and within a week it was repaired and on its way back to us. ONE WEEK.

I private messaged Mr. Lemonis on Twitter about our terrible experience and the fourth message received a response: “I’m on it!”

After several months of conversations, emails, and going back and forth, Camping World offered me a $1,000 gift card to make up for the 10 months our RV was off the road due to their terrible customer service. And after more back and forth I asked for 5 $1,000 gift cards. It didn’t happen.

They said no.

And by “they” I mean Marcus Lemonis and his executive team.

Everything I’ve ever seen or heard about Mr. Lemonis has been positive. He’s made a huge impact on so many people who needed help with their business plan, their strategy, their marketing. And he’s been there to help them…on camera. Anyone and everyone told me to reach out to him, that HE would never condone the treatment I received and would definitely try to help. I believed them!

Maybe I need to get on camera?!?!? I just thought of that as I was typing…maybe that’s what’s missing…media attention! Maybe that would make it worth his time to right a wrong.

In any case, the “litmus test” for a company that prioritizes good customer service is really only effective when testing how they make amends after they make a mistake, when their team has delivered terrible customer service, when a customer is damaged or hurt in any way as a result of their company.

In our case, it was a series of mistakes and not one person’s fault, it wasn’t intentional (although it felt like it was at times when they didn’t bother to call or email or anything), but no matter what, it was abysmal customer service and if Camping World and Mr. Lemonis cared at all about the type of service they provide, they would be jumping all over to make it right (happy employees that they must be).

Can they compensate us for all of our losses? No.

Would we ask them to? No.

But acknowledging their mistake and making an honorable effort to make it up to us would go a long way. Right now we feel dismissed.

We are not important to them. What happened is not important to them. Our loss at their hands is not something they are concerned about.

They don’t care. He doesn’t care.

Flags have his attention right now, not customers. (I happen to agree with him on the flag issue, but that doesn’t change a thing about his need to make right our debilitating experience with Camping World’s terrible customer service.)

If Camping World steps up, I would be happy to thank them personally and profusely, and recognize them to our nearly 20K social media followers. If they don’t, I really don’t want to be associated with them.

I don’t dislike Marcus Lemonis. I’m sure he is a good guy and has some great qualities. But I am extremely disappointed in his lack of concern and commitment to the quality of customer service promised by Camping World.

There’s a lesson to be learned here, as Bill Gates said in the quote at the top of this post, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

Well, I’m unhappy.

What matters most? Righting wrongs. Taking care of the little people, even when huge flags are in the way.

When wondering about customer service policies, try the ‘litmus test’ when something goes wrong, it will never lead you astray. If they care, they will bend over backwards to show you that you matter, that they value you as a customer, and they will make it up to you.

It’s never too late to right a wrong. It’s never too late to care.

Fly your flag, Marcus. You have that right. But do what’s right here too.

Jean Krisle is the Founder & Chief Inspiration Officer at10,000 Beds, Inc, a national 501c3 non-profit organization connecting individuals battling a substance use disorder with vetted addiction/recovery programs through treatment scholarships. A motivational keynote speaker and trainer and nationally certified recovery and life coach, Jean helps organizations and individuals rebound from challenge, rejuvenate energy, and refine their best selves.

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