I have lot of experience being a dissatisfied customer. Most recently, the bank made a mistake, and an extra $9,700 was removed from my account late one Friday night. The bank has admitted that something happened and has acknowledged that the same check was presented twice for payment and paid.

  • Customer service is in the eye of the customer. Let's put the service back into "customer service" by listening and actually having empathy for our clients and their problems.

I have lot of experience being a dissatisfied customer.

Most recently, the bank made a mistake, and an extra $9,700 was removed from my account late one Friday night. The bank has admitted that something happened and has acknowledged that the same check was presented twice for payment and paid.

There is some money I could put into the account so that I can pay the rest of the month’s bills, but I am afraid to because clearly there’s a possibility it might disappear.

It also seems silly to put more in when so much has been lost; after 10 days the money is still missing.

No satisfaction

Hundreds or maybe thousands of others have experienced missing money from the same bank. Yet, when we called the voicemail just kept saying that there was an unusual volume of calls and to wait.

The bank could have put some kind of a message on its website, but it did not. Instead, I learned about it while looking at Twitter. There hasn’t been much news coverage because, as usual, the news media is more focused on the three-ring circus we used to call the three branches of government.

When I did finally reach someone at the bank, I was given a 13-digit claim number and was asked to swear to a statement that I am not in colusion with anyone in an attempt to defraud the bank.

I was also sent a customer satisfaction survey and then a follow-up email asking me to respond to the survey. I did respond with the lowest ratings possible and again explained the situation.

The bare minimum I expect from a bank is to protect money from being lost or stolen. After seeing over $9,700 vanish — any trust I had is gone.

Do I even matter?

One of the most powerful people in the real estate industry started a brokerage company that doesn’t handle or resolve complaints from its customers, the agents.

Each office is independently owned and operated, but flies under the Keller Williams banner. Seemingly, no one is responsible or accountable when there is a data breach, but someone is always happy to take a bow for successes.

There doesn’t seem to be a system for handling problems past or present agents might have because of mistakes that happen at headquarters.

Incompetence or negligence caused private data of real estate agents to be compromised. That data included Social Security numbers. For some, it has already meant the beginning of a lifetime of credit monitoring, locks and freezes.

If I could actually contact someone, I would ask to have my information removed from its system. It might be too late, but it would make me feel a little better.

It would make me feel like I mattered somehow and that my information is more than data needed for a database.

The great leaders lead from the basement where they remain hidden and unconcerned with how a data theft has affected many lives. They do great things, give inspirational talks and receive industry recognition for greatness. They don’t return phone calls or answer email.

No one has said they are sorry, and I didn’t even get a 13-digit claim number or a satisfaction survey. It is indeed a cold cruel world.

In the eye of the beholder

My company is small, and I suppose that makes things easier. I think people who have a complaint should be listened to and understood.

In the past, I have refunded money because a client felt wronged. I always want to make it right if I can.

Sometimes it’s better to keep the relationship with clients and customers healthy and look at ways to improve communication so that misunderstandings do not arise with future clients.

Communication is always a challenge, and buying or selling real estate can quickly become an emotional experience.

Customer service is in the eye of the client.

It doesn’t matter how many surveys are given out, how big the customer service department is or if the company has solid “values.”

If the customers feel wronged or ripped off, then they have been wronged or ripped off.

Having one or two people out there who are or were so dissatisfied with your service that they will talk about it, write about it or tell others could be expensive to a small business — maybe more expensive than eating a fee, paying for a microwave oven or buying some gift certificates.

Sometimes a heartfelt apology with or without flowers is appropriate.

Hiding behind a survey or a bunch of “company policies” is just wrong, and most people won’t buy it.

There are times when clients and customers can be totally unreasonable, but even then, listening and understanding them goes a long way toward quelling the situation and helping the customers move on.

We are all human, and that means we will make mistakes. For small companies and individual agent, how we respond when a customer comes to us with a complaint can make or break us.

Nothing says “I don’t care” like ignoring or avoiding customer complaints or giving them 13-digit claim numbers and satisfaction surveys after you have screwed up.

My customers are always right — even when they are wrong. Now I just need to find a bank that feels the same way.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.

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