This page was last updated on 1 January 2008.

Customer Service: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Ground Rules

I think the essence of customer service is how you answer the following question: If I had it to do over again and there was an easily available alternative, would I give these people my money? If the answer was "yes", then the person or organization in question is eligible for The Good list; if the answer is unprintable, then they belong on The Bad list.

There were two further requirements to get listed on this page:
  1. The level of interaction had to be sufficient to give the person(s) or organization a chance to display customer service skills. In other words, getting my order right at McDonald's (if such an event should ever occur) does not make the cut.

  2. The person(s) or organization must be exceptional in their response -- either exceptionally good or exceptionally bad.
By the way, I am not soliciting customer service stories, good or bad. I will use this page merely to observe whether particular people, organizations, etc., gave me my money's worth. If I start collecting everyone's stories, then I cross the line separating someone exercising his freedom of speech to discuss his own life and someone who is a purveyor of gossip and innuendo. I'll probably get sued, too.

So, anyone that felt compelled to send me a story should get their own website and publish it themselves.

The Good

I had really good experiences with the following people and organizations:

Dr. Fern Crist, D.V.M., and the staff of the Barcroft Cat Clinic of Arlington, VA
Dr. Crist and the Barcroft Clinic staff are truly remarkable. In addition to being highly skilled medical professionals, they really view their patients from the same perspective that I do -- as members of the family. I wouldn't consider trusting the health of Maggie and Randy to anybody else.

Here is a picture of Dr. Crist and Rusty, a wonderful orange tabby who finally just ran out of lives, despite Dr. Crist's valiant attempts.

John Bell (landlord) of Reston, VA
John was my landlord for two years. In addition to being a friendly guy, I was impressed that he let us know exactly what was expected of us, took care of problems in a quick and efficient manner, and recognized that a slight amount of wear and tear is normal. My ex-wife and I were good tenants, and he appreciated that, and we in turn appreciated that.

Jim Holmes (photographer) of Woodbridge, VA
Jim was the photographer at my wedding. He does a great job, charges very reasonable rates, and doesn't play that "$95 a roll for the negatives of your own wedding" game.

Ron Meely (building inspector) of Building Inspector of America (Fairfax)
Ron is a former building contractor who inspected our home a couple of times during the construction. He found a few things wrong, including one or two which were serious enough to potentrially delay our closing. Ron approached his job in a non-adversarial manner, understanding that problems are natural and that the goal of everybody -- Ron, the building supervisor, the sales agent, and my ex-wife and I -- was to make sure that we would be happy with our new townhouse. He was very professional, and did not approach it as "I'm going to nail these @#$%&*". We were very please with the job he did.

The Bad

MacWarehouse (mail order software company)

CompUSA (computer store)
Like several other computer professionals I know, I had found CompUSA's unique combination of poor selection and rude, ignorant staff sufficient incentive to do my shopping elsewhere. After Apple announced its strategic partnership with CompUSA, though, I decided to give them (CompUSA, although I suppose this could apply to Apple as well) a second chance. After all, all I had to do was call in the order, then go to the local store, write a check and take it home. Twenty minutes top, right?

Wrong! The real answer turned out to be SIX HOURS. Among other things, I had to deal with
  • managers who do not respond to customer service pages;
  • a check verification service with a policy of (this is a direct quote) "We don't care how much money is in the account or that your [local] bank says that the check is good, we won't approve it";
  • employees who don't know company policy (after being told that cashiers checks were acceptable payment, and spending two hours getting one, I'm then told "we don't take cashiers checks").
I only put up with this as long as I did because I was leaving town in a few days, and I really wanted to take my new laptop with me. In the end, I had to bluntly (and loudly; it seems that the only way to get service there is to make a scene) tell an assistant manager that she would either take the cashiers check (which had already been verified through a call to the bank) or she would lose the sale. I got my computer, but it will be a cold day in Hell before I shop there again.

The Ugly [under construction]