Customer Service Isn’t Just Dead… It was MURDERED!

I hate being reminded that general common courtesy (as well as common sense, a lot of the time) is just NOT common anymore. I’m left, after numerous interactions and transactions on a daily basis, scratching my head wondering where the service is. Is it just acceptable now to provide sub-par service? Is it OK to be rude to a customer? Is it just no longer a focus of companies to provide training for and more so, demand their employees provide good service? I’m truly beginning to wonder.

Let me tell you about the kind of day I had… it started with Kohl’s department store. Many of you know that Paul and I are expecting our very first baby, Luke! We’ve had sort of a tumultuous pregnancy and after a scare we quickly realized we needed to start buying the essentials. On Sunday, I noticed that Kohl’s was having a sale… I also had a coupon for 20% off and free shipping (which ended that same day). While browsing their site I’d found several things we needed and promptly scooped them up (along with some savings). This morning, however, I’d received an email saying that they cancelled my order, with no further information.

I was quickly frustrated.

Not jumping to conclusions, I simply called the number on the email and discovered it was their fraud department. I was unsure why I was directed there, but none the less, I waited in the queue and finally spoke to a live person. I explained the situation, gave them my information and then upon hearing the next few things… I really got boiling. Let me recap the conversation:

Kohl’s: This order was being shipped to a Tara Furiani. Correct?
Me: Right.
Kohl’s: But the card used to make the purchase was in the name of Paul Furiani.
Me: Uh-huh. That’s my husband.
Kohl’s: Well, he needs to place the order.
Me: Umm… what are you talking about?
Kohl’s: Is Paul Furiani there?
Me: Yes.
Kohl’s: I need to speak with him and verify.
Me: Ok. (Hands the phone to Paul)
Paul: Hello?
Kohl’s: Is this Paul Furiani?
Paul: Yes.
Kohl’s: Are you aware that a Tara Furiani placed an order for baby related items using your credit card?
Paul: Um… yes. She’s my wife.
Kohl’s: Can you verify what items she purchased?
Paul: No… she placed the order, can’t you speak to her about this? This doesn’t really make any sense!
Kohl’s: So Tara Furiani used your credit card?
Paul: Ok, first of all… it’s our credit card. She’s on the account too and second, what is the issue here?
Kohl’s: An order cannot be shipped in someone else’s name and billed to someone else.
Paul: Well, what about gift orders? This is ridiculous… it’s the same shipping and billing address that you’re charging and sending to. Here’s Tara.
Kohl’s: What you’ll need to do is have Paul re-place the order and make sure it’s shipping to him, in his name.
Me: Ok, I will re-order and just put his name.
Kohl’s: No, you cannot do that. Your husband needs to place the order.
Me: Right.

From here; I hung up and began to cry. I know… I know… I am not even a “crier” but I’m pregnant and hormonal and this just sent me over the edge. I would understand if Kohl’s needed to verify the card, had it been being shipped to another address. But the billing and shipping addresses were the same. The ONLY difference was my name, Tara Furiani, was in the ship to field and my husband, Paul Furiani, was listed in the bill to field. The real kicker came when the Kohl’s fraud person told me that I also would not be able to use my Sunday only promo code.
Suffice it to say, I’m adding Kohl’s to my list of places that I will no longer patronize. I’ll also use it in what not to do, in customer service situations and let everyone I know (which is a good amount of people, both personally & professionally) not to shop with them either.

In a time where America is struggling financially, more and more businesses are going into bankruptcy (and a good number closing altogether) and “nice to haves” just aren’t even considered… why wouldn’t a business do everything it could to keep whatever business they still have? To me, there is nothing more impactful to your bottom line like good, old fashioned, SERVICE.

Word of mouth is powerful… can we say Apartment Ratings? Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Yelp? TripAdvisor? People talk and I know, for one, I’ve been TALKING about Kohl’s all day long and NOT in a good way (obviously). A smile, a friendly tone… heck, some civility at this point… could have totally changed this whole experience for me.
At Sterling, we believe that customer loyalty is achieved by exceeding customers’ expectations.

That is the cornerstone of our business, and the foundation of all we do. No matter the objective of our customer, our goal is to develop and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship.

So, how does a rapidly growing organization stay attentive to their customers’ needs? How do they not only maintain good customer service, but continue to surpass their expectations?

The mission adopted by our colleagues is to exceed customer expectations by providing “+1” service. This involved first identifying our customers’ expectations, achieving those expectations, and then providing something further to exceed them.

This new initiative, called “Sterling 925,” drives our company culture. Why 925? Well, that is the atomic weight of sterling silver, and we are nothing less than Sterling! This initiative will continue to evolve as Sterling does. Customers will always be the heart of our business, and our charge is to embrace the challenge of finding new ways to provide “Sterling Service” and exceed their expectations into the future.

What does your company do to ensure it doesn’t miss the mark, from a customer service standpoint?


  1. Tara, this is such a great example of what is wrong with the world. I have had many similar experiences…most recent with JC Penney and when I called to cancel my card, they just accepted it…when they listed to my issue, they still offered no help and seemed to not care at all that I would NEVER be shopping there again. I also tweeted, facebooked etc. my displeasure. I even opted out of their email campaigne and when it asked for the reason I gave it…still have heard nothing from them. I spent probably $500 – $1,000 per year there and now will never spend another penny! Customer Service is the one thing that I know will make me stand out in my industry and it’s just so easy to do! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. Thanks Becky! It was a pretty terrible experience… and I did just as you, I tweeted, facebooked and blogged. My experience with Kohl’s and a gentleman named James T. on their social media team ended pleasantly.

    James responded to my tweet within minutes and reviewed what happened. The apologized for the experience and offered me an additional 5% off my order (25% total, honoring my original 20% off coupon). I declined. But at least the thought was there.

    It’s just too bad…

    Thanks for taking the time to comment! :)


  3. First, congratulations on your family’s upcoming addition, Luke.

    Second, I agree that it feels like customer service has died. It is sad how few positive stories I can share. The basics can so easily get tossed to the side. But let me tell you, I cling to those good moments and make sure those individuals and their supervisors know how much I appreciate them and their service.

    Third, I read a wonderful book by Chip Conley- How great companies get their mojo from Maslow, and I loved how he structured out a customer’s level of needs and how to meet them and then the final reward for achieving this. Definitely a good book I recommend to other team members.

    Lastly, thank you for your blog. I am new to the training dept for my company and am very thristy for new knowledge and skills. I apperciate that you take the time to share your knowledge and experience with others. :)


  4. Thank you Rachel! We’re getting very excited!

    I’ve actually read that book by Chip Conley (Like you, I’m always thirsty for knowledge). It is a great read!

    Congrats on your new role… training is a lot of fun and very personally rewarding. I have a pretty good collection of blogs on the topic :)

    Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you out! My door is always open…


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