Behind the Scenes in Customer Service
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18 August 2010

Behind the Scenes in Customer Service
 Lightening storms, pipe burnouts and ghosts named George...

“Okay, I just need to know, is 2 Highway 90 East haunted?” The answer: “Oh, it’s just George. He locked Tony in the bathroom once.”

On Friday, August 6th we had yet another summer storm. And this one somehow reached out and fried a piece of our networking equipment, arcing visibly within the building, leaving customer service and shipping without computers or phones. Our fearless leaders, Sykes and Brian, along with Melissa, our even more fearless person in charge of all things electronic, dashed over in the pouring rain only to discover that there was no hope of recovery without new equipment. Mark and I gathered up our personal belongings, favorite pens, notepads, etc. and grabbed our nifty IP phones which identically work wherever they're plugged in (assuming lightening hasn't killed the network, of course). Dashing through the rain, we rushed over to our main building of operation. We set up camp at two vacant computer stations on the second floor.

As you may already know, that weekend four staff members took off to New Orleans. With Adam still out on vacation in Russia, things were pretty quiet in the big building. But it was all business as usual, with Pam, Eric and Melissa ensuring that all was well for the weekly updates. The networking equipment was on order and customer service and shipping were back online at 2 Highway 90 East.

Tuesday evening after logging off my computer, I was in our kitchen washing out my coffee cup. I was alone in our 100+ year old building, as the guys downstairs in our retail store had already departed. After washing my cup and wiping down the counters, I stepped into the bathroom to check my look in the mirror, and while gazing in the mirror I heard a sound. It was like one of those double-take moments. I paused, stopped breathing and listened veerrry carefully. What I heard was the sound of a door rattling, like an old wooden door that is loose in the door frame, LIKE A DOOR FROM OVER 100 YEARS AGO! Okay, this is for real! I walked out of the bathroom, down the hall and peeked down the stairs towards the retail store and up the stairs towards our attic, which houses our cleaning/restoration shop and photo studio. NOTHING! No sounds. As cold chills started to creep over me, I walked back into the bathroom. NOTHING! No sounds. Needless to say, I grabbed my bag and high tailed it out of there, securing the building for the night.

On Wednesday, our new equipment came in and customer service and shipping moved back to our normal building, which is only a few hundred yards across the way. And I learned about George from fellow coworkers. I found it a little unsettling to know that George is with us, a little sad to think that he cannot rest in peace. But later, I thought, well, maybe George is at peace, here with us. Maybe George even smokes a pipe! I like to think so anyway.

I’ve been in customer service at Smokingpipes.com for four and a half months now and I have learned many things. Like a burn-out is not only the purposeful roar of a motorcycle burning rubber off the rear tire in a cloud of smoke. A burn-out is also when a hole is burning into your pipe! That is not supposed to happen and I’m sure it must be an unpleasant experience. I’ve never witnessed this. I’ve only seen the end result, an ugly gaping hole in the side of a bowl, all charred and black. It’s a SAD sight to see.

In our world at Smokingpipes.com, a pipe is not just a pipe. Properly cared for, a pipe can last through generations. The way I see it, tobacco burns up. A cigar burns up. Once you smoke it, you buy more. If you lose your cigar cutter or pipe tamper, you may be able to replace it with a new one exactly like it. But your favorite pipe, it’s one-of-a-kind. There is only one of each pipe that you see on our web site. We often get repeats in favored designs, but truly each pipe is unique. Your favorite pipe is a companion. Maybe you’ve shared the good, the bad and the ugly together. You share history and memories. Like my favorite Justin roper boots that have been resoled three times and need it badly now. We’ve come a long way, Baby!

Passion for pipes is quite contagious here at Smokingpipes.com. Having read Sykes’ blog entries about visiting famous pipe makers around the world, I feel quite in awe when I browse through our pipe library. Having a better understanding of the passion and fine craftsmanship that went into making a pipe, I hold each pipe a little more tenderly now.

I learn something new just about every day in customer service. I learn from my coworkers. We hold training classes. I study our weekly updates to prepare for potential questions. I research questions to find answers and I learn from our customers. Brian instructs our training classes. We have sniffed tobacco, rubbed it out in our hands, compared it, one to another and smoked it. One day we dissected a cigar to see the tobacco leaf layers and the internal tobacco. Another day we studied pipe shapes, the names of different parts of a pipe, stem designs, etc. And then one day Brian took a hammer to some retired pipe pieces. He banged them open to show us the internal view of a shank hole, a meerschaum lined bowl and a badly charred bowl (though I suspect he really just wanted an excuse to hit something with a hammer). I missed the day they studied a block of briar and learned about the grain of the wood. Word is, they licked the wood. I still don’t know what that was about, but will follow-up on this. Anyway I’m still growing my vocabulary to speak of birdseye, straight grain, flame grain, etc. I study every day, so that I can be better prepared and ready to speak with our customers and fulfill their needs.

Stay tuned for more “Behind the Scenes in Customer Service”, as my colleague Mark Pluta will deliver our next blog entry.

And George, if you’re reading this, please stop messing with my computer speakers.









Posted by kaye at 9:48 PM | Link | 1 comment

Re: Behind the Scenes in Customer Service
There may have been a few times I was aware of George, but most of those might have just been my imagination. One time, however, I was sure of something unusual.

It was very late at night a couple years ago, perhaps 10:30, and I was alone in my office on the second floor. Tony had run out for some late night food. My office at that time was in the corner - which now belongs to Sykes - and I faced west toward one of the large windows. The door, behind me, was always open. The door to the outside stairs was about 20 feet behind my door and locked.

It wasn't raining, windy, or anything. I heard the distinct jingling of a set of keys and the door knob jiggle a bit. Paying no attention for about 15 seconds (waiting for Tony to find the proper key), I ignored it. At about the 30-second mark, I walked to the door to open it. No Tony. Figuring that he ran to his car to get the correct set of keys, I just left the door unlocked. About 10 minutes later, Tony comes through the back door - food in hand.

"What took you so long, dude? I heard you trying to find the right key and unlock the door, but you must have ran back to your car when I opened the door for you."

Tony says, "Dude. I just pulled into the parking lot a minute ago."

This was my first George experience.

Posted by adam on August 19, 2010 at 10:40 AM



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