PITTSFIELD >> Customer service is one of those activities you don't really pay attention to unless you're directly affected by it.
When it's done poorly, you notice. When it's done well you notice it, too.
Bad service can lead you to consider options like withdrawing all your accounts from a bank. But good service at a different branch of the same financial institution can make you reconsider.
My wife and I went through this recently when we had two separate experiences with customer service at two different branches of the same bank, which I'm not going to name.
Our bad experience occurred on the first visit when the personnel in the branch barely acknowledged us when we walked in, even though there were hardly any other customers. They also kept us waiting for a long time without explanation. Frustrated at the lack of service, we left considering.
Now, we went to the bank around lunch time so there was only one teller on active duty. But the teller was counting money when we walked in. The teller didn't say anything right away, so we walked over to the window and were told someone would be without us in a few minutes. The teller went back to counting money.
We were told someone else would be needed to address our problem, so we took a seat. And waited. And waited. And waited.
Now, the person we were supposed to see was busy with someone else so we knew it wasn't going to be a short wait. But there was never any acknowledgment that we were there. The person actually left the office briefly, and kind of glanced at us, but said nothing, before going back in.
We both thought a "be right with you," or "sorry for the delay" from this person might have been nice. Even a smile or a nod would have been acceptable. Again, nothing.
By that time, a second teller had come on the scene, and gave us the wrong instructions on how to activate a new ATM card, which we didn't find out until later when we tried to use it.
We finally decided to leave. Driving home we contemplated moving our account to another bank. Our experience was that bad.
But our second experience at another branch madce us reconsider. In this visit, the employees were much more professional.
The people on the floor were friendly; they told us exactly who to see. This branch had more staffers, so our wait wasn't going to be as long as in the first office. But the person who helped us was knowledegable and attentive, and gave us all the assistance we needed. We felt much better when we left.
I also had third experience with customer service, which at a local car dealership — again, no names. This one I dealt with solo. The service technician that I worked with spent a long time trying to help me find a part that I needed, and kept me abreast of the efforts. He's actually done this for me twice. I mentioned how he went above and beyond on a service survey that the company sent me.
It made a difference. Both the good and bad service stood out, but we're going to go back to the places that helped us. If you think customer service doesn't matter, think again.
The right stuff
While we're on the subject of quality service, it's worth noting that an insurance company with an office in the Berkshires is serving the community by helping nonprofits.
GoodWorks Insurance, which has an office in Great Barrington, recently reached an agreement with the members of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Western Massachusetts. The agency will donate 20 percent of its commissions to that organization's educational foundation on all business and personal insurance policies that members buy from it.
"It's a creative arrangement," said Brad Campbell, the executive director of the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Western Massachusetts, which is based in Springfield, but frequently holds training sessions in the Berkshires. "Our members will be able to support our foundation without spending an extra cent."
GoodWorks Insurance does these types of creative arrangements a lot.
In June, GoodWorks reached an agreement with the 3,000 owners of the Berkshire Co-op Market in Great Barrington that would allow them to support local charities while saving money on both their auto and home insurance.
Under that deal, whenever a Co-op owner buys a home or auto insurance policy through GoodWorks Insurance, the agency will deposit 20 percent of its commissions to the Berkshire Market Co-op Community Fund. Also, every time an owner refers a business to GoodWorks, all insurance policies written for the business will yield a deposit to the Fund,
In the Berkshires, GoodWorks has also given grants to Community Health Programs, The Rudolf Steiner School and the Great Barrington Firefighters Association.
For information on these programs go to www.goodworksinsurance.com.
Tony Dobrowolski is the business editor of The Berkshire Eagle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.