What is true customer service?

I hate dealing with customer service – for ANYTHING! Especially since most of it is done via the internet ‘chat’ service rather than an actual person which, in my humble opinion, is a shame. I have very rarely had a positive customer service experience so whenever I have to go through the ordeal of getting help via ‘Chat Help’ I feel my anger spiking before I’ve even started typing!

My worst experience so far was through the Disney Store – our daughter was bought a gift by another family member for her birthday through the site and when it arrived I was charged $20 by UPS for customs. Considering the gift wasn’t even worth that much I was a little taken back and asked why I had to pay. The very nice UPS guy said it was because the sender hadn’t marked ‘gift’ on their declaration form but if I contacted the Disney store and asked them to send a form stating that the parcel was indeed a gift, I could get my $20 refunded. With that info I set about emailing customer service and an infuriating saga began.

I will cut this story short but over the course of TWO WEEKS I went back and forth arguing my case. Every reply that came back was a pre-written answer which meant no-one was actually reading the question. Having started out calm and polite I ended up getting so angry I wrote an email blasting the company for their lack of service and customer care and swore never to shop with them ever and, furthermore, I would contact as many friend and family as possible to make them aware of how crappy the online Disney store really was and tell them never to use the site.

It was after that that I finally received a human response; A site director wrote a grovelling apology stating he was upset to learn how my case had been treated and offered a $50 gift card as a consolation prize. I deleted the email and the card – the damage had been done and I was not going to let them use a gift card as a win!

The same thing has happened today only this time it’s a technical issue with my mobile phone and in true crappy chat help fashion the ‘person’ on the end of the line is not reading my question and I am repeating myself several times over. IT’S INFURIATING!!! You know you are in trouble when answers come back in under three seconds. Then, if you type something not matching their automatic responses you wait 5 minutes for an answer; they actually have to think and try to find an answer themselves! That’s far too complicated, right?

If you work in customer service, which I have done, one of the first rules is to listen to what you are being told and try to actually care about the issue at hand in order to find the best solution but unfortunately it seems as though that train of thought long since left the station.

Thus ends today’s rant! If you have experienced a similar situation I would love to hear about it. Am I in a minority who feel this way or is this really how customer service is these days?


The Teeny Tiny House Dream

Living Tiny - why bigger isn't always better

I have just finished watching a fascinating documentary called “Tiny: A Story About Living Small” and up until an hour ago I had the misconception that the whole ‘Tiny House’ thing was for hippies and environuts. Well, I was very wrong!¬†Living in a Tiny House is more than just a pie-in-the-sky idea, it’s a conscious decision to better your life and take control of what you have.¬†Tiny House 2

My family and I live in a house that is roughly 1900 square feet and prior to that we lived in a 750 sq ft apartment. When we moved this house felt enormous but now it’s filled in with our stuff and it feels homey and happy. I wouldn’t change it because this is where my kids will grow up, it’s where my husband and I do little house project to make it feel more like it’s ‘ours’ (rather than the banks which I guess it technically still is) and it’s spacious enough that we can each have our own little areas to chill out in. Having said all that I sometimes look around at what I have and I think, “if (God forbid) I were to die tomorrow and my family went through my stuff, they would probably throw it all away anyway!” My ‘stuff’ would mean nothing to them. I love all things paper, stationery, books, art etc and I have collected quite a few bits and bobs and to me they are things I enjoy, but to my parents they would be obsolete and possibly weird.

The idea of living in a house no bigger than a flat-bed trailer is something that has always seemed near to impossible to me simply because it wouldn’t fit my current lifestyle but I have always secretly wanted my own little space, away from the house and the noise, that I would call my Potting Shed. This space would be mine alone and it would be filled with the things that make me happy; arts and crafts items, books, music and a nice comfy space to just do nothing in. Oh, and a stove so I could make tea! If my situation was different I’m sure I would hop onto the Tiny House bandwagon and find a beautiful spot in the middle of Caithness and happily live in seclusion amongst the beautiful hills and heather.

Tiny House 3The documentary itself followed the journey of a young man called Christopher Smith who, after travelling most of his life, wanted to have a place he could call ‘Home’. After months of research he decided he would build a Tiny home before driving it onto a parcel of land he owned in Colorado. What he thought would be a quick and easy three month build actually became a year long adventure but he got through it with the help of his friends and family. It was really inspiring to watch him build his home; he had no building experience whatsoever but with the help of the always glorious YouTube, he did it! I felt something near to pride towards him by the end of the film as he parked his new Tiny House and stood looking out over the vast, stunning landscape around him.

During the documentary various Tiny House owners were asked what their home meant to them and why they chose to go small rather than big and for many it was a financial decision, as well and a health decision. The recession in America showed many that bigger was not better and a make or break choice had to be made. For others their well-being became the pivotal point in their decision as to whether they remained desperately unhappy trying to pay off an enormous mortgage or to completely overhaul their lives for their own betterment and sanity. One woman in particular made the idea of living small seem totally reasonable; after being diagnosed with a serious health issue she was forced to re-evaluate her life and she came to the conclusion that life was too important to waste on mundane things like stressing over bill payments and job pressures. She moved into an 86 sq ft home with her dog and now looks at everyday as a blessing in which she lives as best she can. She had no idea if she would live a further 6 weeks or 6 years but she felt confident knowing she was living her life in the way she wanted to – at peace with her surroundings and happy with what she had.

If you get a chance to watch the documentary I highly recommend it, even if it’s just out of sheer curiosity. It’s currently streaming on Netflix but you can also buy the DVD. You can see a trailer and find more info here.