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Friday, 6 January 2012

Customer service?

Service please??
What is it with poor customer service? Do I need attitude whilst parting with my hard earned pennies? Is it a prerequisite to be rude to every person you meet? Whatever happened to good manners?
I could cite many examples where shop assistants, call centre staff and waiting staff have been unduly and undeservedly impolite. I won’t because it will enrage me. Besides it appears to be endemic and getting worse.
I think that fundamentally the problem is that many of those in the customer service industry think that they are simply too good for the job that they are doing. This may be the case. You may aspire to a different vocation. The thing is that you should aim to do everything you do well. If you can’t do jobs that you deem to be ‘below you’ well then you’re not setting a very good precedent for your future ventures. Its also not a good advert to anyone you may meet again in the future. And you really never know when that may be or in what circumstances.
I state at this point that I am never rude to people serving me or dealing with my issue on the telephone. Ever. I think manners go a long LONG way and they truely something we should take pride in. After all a please and thank you really doesn’t cost anything.  But it earns you a lot of respect. Certainly from me.  
I’ve done all manner of jobs. I’ve cleaned hospitals, cooked in old peoples homes, cold called people about glazing they dont want, worked in a call centre both inbound and outbound, served in shops, stacked shelves and waited in restaurants. I'm not unaware of how gruelling it can be to serve the public. Believe me i currently deal with some of the most unpleasant people you could ever dream of meeting. My job is to smile. To make it seem better. Less painful. They deserve that. So do customers. So why is it so intrinsically difficult?
Lets be honest, we know that there are those customers who like to be rude. Who like to make people feel subservient to them. Who want to exert 5 seconds of power over another human being.  I get that from clients too. I wholeheartedly agree that this is behaviour which must be stamped out. I will join in with the stamping.
What I'm talking about is rudeness from those providing a service. Unprovoked rudeness stemming from what appears to be a hangover of  teenage attitude problems. And they have got it big style. No smile. No please or thank you. No words at all. Just grunting. Holding out their hand for you to deposit your money in.  I object to this kind of “service”. After all if people didn’t shop in the store they work in, surely they wouldn’t be needed to work there?
That said I'm often bowled over by the helpfulness of other people. The kind smile. The time they devote to each customer to ensure that they are happy with their purchases/service. I enjoy basking in the pride they take in their jobs. Its infectious and inspires me to go that extra mile for others as well.
I think that people over the phone can be just as bad as those serving you face to face, if not worse. They of course have the benefit of a certain level of anonymity. They are removed from the situation.
 I recently received a letter which I objected to, from a well known supermarket chain. The letter was quite threatening in nature and was about being in their car park over a certain time limit. I should point out that at the time I was spending money in their store and coffee shop. As was a friend of mine who also received a letter.
I contacted their customer ‘helpline’ whereby  I was told by Sam, that although they valued my custom, if I didn’t like it then I could always shop elsewhere. I confirmed that I would do so without further ado.  I'm pretty sure that this approach wasn’t taught during telephone training sessions. At no point was I rude to her. I just indicated that I wasn’t happy with the content of the letter.
I wrote to the store about this issue. I mentioned that maybe their staff hadn’t adopted the most customer orientated attitude.  No response was ever received. 
I no longer shop with them and as every little helps, I'm hoping that eventually they will feel a change in tide of people willing to part with their money when such poor service is offered. They will never get a penny more of mine.
I firmly believe that the only way to tackle the issue of poor customer relations is to boycott the product/service/store concerned. Yes you are a little fish in a big sea. Yes they think that they have enough customers so as not to notice the loss of one or two....
The thing is that it will make you feel better.
Shops underestimate consumer power. They forget the old adage that an unhappy customer will tell at least 5 other people. I know that on the basis of my experience, none of my family now shop in the store above. If that ripple effect were to continue then it could easily decimate a company’s customer base....
What I'm saying is that if you’re not happy with a product or service then stop using it. That's the only way to really make a stand against corporate giants peddling below standard customer services.  In today’s financial climate it could make a really big difference.

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