There’s an I in Service, but Obviously no Me

serviceI had to cool-off for a week prior to writing this blog entry, and the subject matter here is pretty damn grave. We’ve all had those customer service experiences that sent us reeling, blogging, texting, ranting and otherwise gotten us off-the-hook pissed. Last week, I hit my limit when I did what I normally do when I receive a first check from a new client: I take it to THEIR bank and cash it.

Obviously, that’s a no-no. The teller inquired if I was aware of the “check cashing fee for non-Wells Fargo account holders.”

Here’s where I said “no.” Apparently it’s $5.

Seeing as how I’d just waited in line for 20 minutes, what am I supposed to say other than, “OK, you win, you’ve got me by the balls?” So not only did I wait in line for 20 minutes at a client’s bank to make sure their check was good (instead of wait 5 to 7 business days to see if it cleared), but since I wasn’t personally a Wells Fargo account holder, I had to pay $5 to get my own goddamned money from one of THEIR account holders.

Here’s where I ask: What happened to running a customer-centric business?

The customer who wrote me that check was a referral from another customer.

The person who wrote me that check is the reason I stay in business.

The collection of people who write checks on a Wells Fargo account are the reason that Wells Fargo stays in business.

When did business become so jaded that we forgot who funded the payroll accounts?

My community – “my peeps” – my fellow Tweeters, Stumblers, Facebook Friends and LinkedIn Connections…each and every one of them is is a service capacity. I’m surrounding daily by the musings of rock climbing attorneys, hiking photographers, work-at-home webmasters for media moguls, CEOs of emerging technologies, SEO firm whizzes, and notable voices from the PR and social media realm to name a few.

While each of these folks might dish and bitch behind closed doors to colleagues or friends, they often take their concerns to the public forum. Blogs, Tweets, Stumbles with “thumbs down…” No matter. They all have one thing in common: each of thir gigs is dependent on the next person or company that hires them to DO THEIR JOB. And the next. And that person telling another person.

It’s the hub, the cog, the spoke of social media at it’s core: endorsement-based marketing.

So when the hell did business get so bloody jaded that it forgot that the customers are the ones writing the checks and we shouldn’t be charged to cash them? In a world where positive feedback spreads like a slow burn and negative like wildfire, I think it’s time that service-based organizations re-examined their service model.

Todd Defren of PR Squared got it right this week when he Tweeted: The resoundingly negative response to Cuil, following a big PR push, is a textbook example of how NOT to launch. Only PR firm will be happy.

Explain to me why you launch an application that’s touted to “crush Google” and you do a shit job of it. What, for the paycheck? Congrats. That’s the last paycheck you’ll ever get. Drive it to Wells Fargo, pay your $5 fee, and start looking for new business. Yes, Cuil sucks, but part of the perception of the level of suckage is a direct result of a crappy PR job. A service provider who forgot Ford’s Job #1.

Perhaps this whole Wells Fargo incident happeed at the right time, in the right place. My client will never know how pissed I got at their bank, though I will make sure that everyone in my blogosphere, Tweeterverse, Stumble Zone and FriendFeed (and honestly, every live human I’ve met between then and now) knows I think that Wells Fargo is a bunch of bastards that forgot that I could be a potential customer.

Did you think you were going to earn my business, Wells Fargo, by pissing me off and bullying me to open an account, all so I could save $5?

The answer is no. You forgot what we all must remember as providers of service, extenders of expertise and mouthpieces of our organizations:

I’m the one who makes your payroll.

Perhaps this is why I love social media and why I value it so deeply. I try to never forget that each person I interact with is a potential customer … that the dollars could flow elsewhere and that a negative thought regarding my level of professionalism and the services I provide can end up here…

in the ether

and have either the slow burn effect of positive, business-building publicity

or the wildfire that leaves the pervasive scent of a crash and burn.

So I put the question back out to you, my peers: what’s your peeve when it comes to customer service and how do you ensure that you’re not the next Wells Fargo?

Is it so selfish to want companies to put ME back into their service model? Hell, I hope I never forget that YOU are the reason I live and work the life I love.

Questions? Thrown fruit? Work for Wells Fargo?

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and a special thanks to everyone whose profiles I linked to above and thanks for always brightening my Twitterverse with humanity, thought, frustration and your professional insight.

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Eric Reid
Eric Reid

And so say all of us. I always wonder if businesses understand that these things they charge for - not just for non-customers, but anyone they take money from when they really don't need to - could be used instead to push them ahead of their competition. For example, it may not mean a whole lot in the big picture of a vacation, but what if U.S. Airways decided to be the one airline that doesn't charge money for a Coke on their flights? If nothing else, it could give them enough proof that they care, and get more people to book flights through them. Kind of our own faults, though, I guess - businesses have to REALLY go overboard before the public punishes them for nickle and dime-ing them.

Paul Beiser
Paul Beiser

Great post (@pbeiser from twitter). I have so many pet peeves I can't list them all...