Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Service Schmervice

As many know, Russell and I are huge fans (and critics) of good customer service. We both work hard to be polite and easy-to-deal-with patrons and we hope that we are perceived as hospitable to guests in our home. Why is it so hard for some people to be nice, knowledgeable and helpful?

Russell and I are so thankful that the company he is working for this summer has provided us with furnished, low cost housing this summer so please do not take the following post as an ungrateful rant. We realize how lucky we are for Russell to be working for a great company that is taking their interns well-being (and wallets) into consideration.

I begin this story 2 weeks ago. Russell is in China and I'm trying to pack up our apartment in Durham so that we can head out ASAP for our summer adventure. We have been told that we will be living in a furnished apartment. It took a considerable amount of time to even find out where we were living for the summer which was frustrating but forgivable.

As soon as I found out where we would be living, I called the apartment complex to ask about some basics- What is our address? Do we have a broom/mop/vacuum? Do I need to bring bedding? Do we have televisions? Do we have internet? Are these questions hard? Unreasonable? Out of the ordinary? I think not. The person on the phone was so rude. She cut me off, gave me short answers and didn't even know the answers to some of my questions.

If I had been the leasing consultant, I would've given the following answers: "I don't know the answers to your questions but I'll have my manager call you when she is available." OR "I know the answers to [x y z] but I'm not sure about the rest. Let me find out and I will call you back as soon as I can." OR "We are swamped in the office. I want to get all of your questions answered. I can call you back later today or you can email me your questions and I'll get them answered as soon as I can."

I cut my conversation short because I was feeling like I was being a nuisance and I was annoyed with her lack of hospitality. I tried to shake my frustration throughout the day but I just couldn't drop it. I chose to email the office and politely throw in that I felt I had been disregarded and rushed through my conversation. The manager returned my call and she was very polite. In this call I got a better picture of what to expect in my furnished apartment. During the conversation I thought it would be important to let her know that Russell and I would be arriving after the other interns. I told her we would be arriving either Monday or Tuesday and that I would call before we showed up. This conversation lasted around 15 minutes in total.

Fast forward to about a week later. I am following up on our promise to call before we arrived.
When I called the manager answered and I told her we were on our way. She was confused and said, "I thought the interns moved in on Friday." Really?! Didn't we have a conversation about this. I don't expect her to remember everything, but this was a significant point of our conversation.

We arrive around noon on Tuesday and guess who checks us in- you got it! It was the rude girl on the phone. Was she rude again? Not blatantly, I think she's just not from around here. Did she give us ample information about the complex? Not. At. All. She handed us some paperwork and did not explain a single piece. She pretty much showed us where to sign and got up. We read through the paperwork while she paced, obviously annoyed that we were actually reading it. The manager ran past the table and threw a welcome basket at us. She did not make eye contact, welcome us or introduce herself. We were handed two keys and shown a map of the apartment complex. The leasing consultant circled our building and sent us on our way with two keys (one of which did not work).

The apartment is well furnished, moderately clean and we have plenty of space. I can't complain too much about the apartment but here are my complaints: sheets not clean, bed frame so squeaky that when you open the bedroom door the bed squeaks (it wakes us up during the night), a few dead bugs on the floor (which you could expect from an apartment that has been closed up for a few days/weeks this time of year), a very tiny kitchen trashcan with no lid, and the kitchen is very scarcely equipped (I will also accept my snottiness about kitchens. The kitchen is actually fine...I'm just a kitchen brat). More great things- all of the marketing interns live on the same floor (although if you read earlier posts you will know Russell and I sometimes have trouble fitting in with the cool kids and we're finding that to be true again), we are living in Fayetteville which is my old college stomping grounds and I live 5 minutes from my little sister- so fun!

After day one I find that I have more questions like: Can I get a new key? When does the cleaning service come? Where do we get our mail? Where do we take our trash? What should I do to make my internet work? Can I get into the gym after hours? Below you will enjoy a verbatim reenactment of my experience in the leasing office:

Me: Hi! It's me again. Is this a good time for me to ask some questions?

Girl at front desk (new one, haven't seen her yet): stares

(I take this as a cue to continue talking)

Me: Ok, well I have several questions here is the first. Number one: one of our apartment keys doesn't work. Do you have another spare or should I go get another one copied?

Girl: We have one (continues to stare)

Me: Second question: Where do I get my mail?

Girl: it's out your door on to the right.

Me: On the third floor?

Girl: No on the first floor.

Aside: when I get back to my apartment I look to the right on the first floor. No mail. Determined not to ask further questions about the mail, I continue to search. I look across the parking lot, probably 50 yards away (that's right, half a football field) there was a little mail hut. Sorry that wasn't obvious to me.

Me: Do I have a combination to get my mail?

Girl: (annoyed) you use your mail key.

Me: Oh, well we didn't get a mail key. Do you have that?

Girl: silently turns and walks to the back to get our new house key and our mail key and hands the keys to me.

Me: Ok, here's my next question. I've been told we have a cleaning service. Can you tell me when the cleaning service comes?

Girl: Silently steps aside and shifts her gaze to the manager sitting in her office.

I take this to mean she doesn't know the answer and I shift my attention to the manager.

Manager: Our cleaning service doesn't have a set schedule.

Me: So is there a range that I could expect her?

Manager: Sometime between Monday and Friday. She doesn't have a set schedule because sometime she has more apartments to clean than others or the weather might be bad.

Me: (restraining the urge to yell) Ok, so I just need to make sure that my house is picked up and there is nothing in the washer/dryer (I say this because I have been told previously that she will not wash your sheets and towels if there is stuff in the washer/dryer).

Manager: No you don't have to do that. She'll just vacuum around whatever is on the floor and she won't wash your sheets if there are things in the washer or dryer.

Me: (thinking not speaking) Why in the heck would I want her to vacuum around piles on the floor and not wash my sheets?

Me: (to the Manager) Ok. Well is she on the property now?

Manager: Yes.

Me: Any idea where she might be? I'll just go ask her what her schedule usually is.

Manager: I don't know what you could possibly ask her. I just told you everything you need to know.

Me: Thank you. Oh, I have a couple more questions. Where do we take our trash?

Manager: To the dumpster.

Me: (Again resisting the urge to roll my eyes, grit my teeth, and scream). Yes, I know I take it to the dumpster. Could you tell me where I could find the dumpster?

Manager: The closest one to your building.

Me: (giving up on this one, I will look for the dumpster myself. It happens to be close to my building) Thank you. Also, what are the rules about working out before or after hours?

Manager: You will come in and sign up for a pass to get in the doors. It will cost $25 if you lose it.
Me: Ok, so do I just come in the day before I need it and sign up for the pass?

Manager: No. You can keep the pass with you.

Me: How do I get the pass?

Manager: Just come in when you're ready to fill out the paperwork.

Me: (after a short pause) I'd like to fill out the paperwork now if I can do that.

Manager: Ok great. Do you have a roommate?

Me: Yes. My husband.

Manager: Does he want a pass too?

Me: sure.

Manager: Well he'll have to fill out paperwork separately.

Me: Can he just use the pass I'm signing for?

Manager: Well, yes!

Me: Ok, then he doesn't need a pass of his own.

Manager: (walks away to get paperwork which I'm expecting to be extensive since she assumed that I'd want to come back to fill out) Here ya go. Sign right here.

Me: (signing the one line after reading the 5 line paragraph). Thanks, where do I use this pass?

Manager: vaguely points behind her and says "over there"

(I still have no idea where to use this pass...I'll soon be finding out when I have to do early morning workouts)

Me: Ok, last question. My husband brought you our router that didn't have an A/C adapter. Do you have a replacement for us?

Manager: Yes it's in my car. We'll get it now.

Me: Thanks so much for all of your help today. I apologize for all of my questions. Have a great day.

Manager: MmmHmm. Here's your router. You need to call Cox to get them to set it up for you.

...and that was the end of the exchange.

Fast forward to later in the day after an hour and a half on the phone with the very polite Cox people I had to trek back to the leasing office. It's not far, I just feel like it's a trek because I dread the interactions that take place there. I explain that this router doesn't work because it's assigned to a different apartment complex. Two days later I finally had internet.

So there ya go- if you would like to break into the world of leasing office management, the competition is weak. At least that's what I'm assuming. It could be a tough market with unique criteria including checking boxes that say "I do not like helping people" "I do not like to smile" and "I do not have common sense".

I hope you've enjoyed my rant for the day. Happy summer y'all!

...and that's all!


  1. Yay for being in Fayetteville! Josh and I would love to see to you this summer!

    What classy complex did you end-up living in this summer? Boo to them!

  2. That sounds painful, but thanks for sharing because I got a good laugh about it. Miss you here in NC, hope Arkansas is treating you well so far.