Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A "Second Chance" at Proper Customer Service?

Over the last few months, I’ve received quite a few tips regarding a local charitable organization. They’ve come to me through a variety of sources - emails, tweets, PM’s, carrier pigeon, etc.

Unfortunately, the main issue surrounding this organization is not really something I’m confident in reporting on this site. I would never consider myself a real reporter, and I lack the legal backup to assist me if I make any major mistakes. The fact that our city recently budgeted some additional funds to this group may be questionable to some, but I’m actually going to look at it as a vote of confidence that their internal problems have been fixed.

However, I can comment on matters such as customer service, and in this regard it appears that Second Chance Rescue has room to improve. A couple of weeks ago, I turned on my office computer to find my Tweetdeck and Facebook page filled with posts involving this organization.

I have since talked to the person in the middle of this situation. Because she is employed by another local non-profit, she has asked to remain anonymous. I realize that a lot of my readers are never happy by my use of unnamed sources, but I think one can understand her reasoning in this situation.

My source started her gig at the beginning of the month, and a field trip to donate supplies to Second Chance Rescue had been scheduled prior to her first day. The day before they were to visit the facility, she called to verify that they were still set to visit.

Instead of being helpful, the Second Chance representative immediately copped an attitude and said that there was no way the 5:30 appointment could be kept as the facility closed at 5:00. “I asked if someone would be willing to wait for the donation since we didn’t need a tour. That was again met with a sharp ‘no, we close at 5:00’.” She ended up taking the $150 of food and goods to the Humane Society, who happily accepted the donation and even posed for photos.

The entire incident would probably have not received any notoriety had it not been for an article in the Argus less than 36 hours later. The headline? “Second Chance Needs Donations”. The article detailed how desperate supplies were needed because the economy has resulted in more owners giving up their pets to save money.

The timing of this story enraged anybody who knew the story of the donation that was turned away. If the situation is so desperate, clearly one person should be willing to stay an extra half hour to accept some supplies…especially when the donors were a group of disadvantaged children. To make matters worse, once the story went “viral” on twitter and face book, my source’s boss was contacted by a Second Chance representative to threaten to “expose” their identity. Hmmm. It seems to me that contact was needed, but for an apology instead of a threat.

Could this be an isolated incident, or an employee having a bad day? Sure. I truly hope that this is the case. Organizations such as this are sorely needed in this city, and I hope everybody supports any group that aspire to take care of unwanted pets. But proper customer service is mandatory for any company, whether they’re a traditional or non-profit business, and one major element is to admit and apologize for any mistakes. Clearly, some customer service training is needed at Second Chance Rescue.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A Plan To Fix The License Plate Fiasco

It's no secret that I don't have a lot of sympathy for the staffing problems at the Minnehaha Courthouse. Part of County Treasurer Pam Nelson's job is to schedule her staff to maximize her department's efficiency, and she's shown herself to be a complete failure with that task.

Are we stuck with long lines, particularly at the end of each month? Probably, but an old friend of mine recently came up with a solution. You may recall that a few years ago, the state changed the laws regarding vehicle licensing. Instead of having the plates "follow" the vehicle, your plates now carry forward to any replacement auto.

I'm actually not a big fan of this law change. Earlier this year, it caused a few problems for my son when his original vehicle literally died on the road. Before junking his original car, he bought a new one and as instructed transferred the plates to this new vehicle. The original car was then towed by the city for not having plates, and arranging to donate it to a junkyard was easier said than done.

Like it or not, though, we have this new law, and it presents the perfect opportunity to fix the courthouse staffing problems. A few weeks ago, a state legislator suggested changing the law to have plates renewed every other year instead of every year. My friend wants to go a step farther. Since the plates belong to us as long as we reside in this state, why not give us the option to pre-pay for the future. If you know that you're going to stick around for quite some time, why not allow us to pay for five...maybe even ten...years?

Obviously, the elderly would probably be hesitant to pay for more than a couple of years, and young adults never know when they may be decide to bolt for greener pastures. Those people could continue to pay every year, or every other year. But somebody like myself, who is inevitably destined to live out the rest of my life in this city, would jump at the chance at not having to deal with renewing my plates every year.

Sure, there are still filing requirements whenever your move or change vehicles. But this is primarily just paperwork formalities that can be easily handled online. I honestly can't think of any downside to this plan. Do you?