Sharing the Struggle: Customer Service

Dear June,

I just have to ask, what has happened to decent customer service?  Everywhere I go, every day, I run across a rude employee.  I have to rant and rave to get anything done.  I have to wait in long lines while 1 or 2 employees help customers when there are 5 or 6 stations.  My order at fast food places is always wrong.  The shops never have my size.  I usually ask for the manager to explain my plight and I get the same story.  I’m interested to hear your thoughts.
–Customer Service Vigilante

Dear CSV,

CSV, if you are “always” running into rude employees and your order is “never” right, I have to ask, have you tried being a better customer?  WAIT!  Before you fire off that angry email that I am sure you are already plotting in your mind, hear me out.
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Where I’m from there is a saying, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”  Having worked in finance most of my life, I can tell you that this holds true 99 percent of the time.  Customers who yelled and raised their voice had a significantly lower chance of getting what they wanted out of me than those customers who treated me as they would like to be treated.  If you are running across employees that are rude to you, try to take a metaphorical step back and determine whether or not they seemed rude before or after you started talking to them.  As much as we try to fight it the level of service we receive is a direct reflection of our attitude.  Once you accept that and work to change your attitude, the sooner you will get the level of service you expect.

Let’s be realistic about waiting.  We live in a microwave world.  If we don’t get what we want within a few seconds, our temperatures rise.  I went to my local bank branch earlier this week after reading your question because I wanted to see how quick customers were to lose their patience.  While sitting in the waiting area until my banker was available, I watched the customers in the queue for the tellers.  I was interested in the timing between arrival in line and an obvious show of impatience.  I found that on average customers waited 12 seconds before they starting looking around for someone else to help them.  12 seconds.  Many of those customers were there to do transactions that are easily done through self-service options.  If you want employees filling every station ready to assist you when you are ready to check out, you can’t also be the customer that complains about higher prices and fees.  Labor is not free.  It isn’t possible to just hire more people without passing on that added expense to the consumer.

Asking for a manager is a completely acceptable way to air your grievances in instances where you feel you have been wronged.  Seeking special treatment, yelling because you are frustrated or asking for the manager’s manager because you don’t like their answer makes you a bully.  As a manager, I would not hesitate to show you the door if you started bullying one of my employees.  In most cases, the employee you were speaking to was trained by the manager.  You are likely to get the exact same answer from them.  If you are asking to do something that is outside company policy you are asking someone to put their job at risk so you can have things your way.  Are you willing to put your employment in peril for a stranger with a bad attitude?  Probably not.

I am not blind to the fact that there truly are people who don’t belong in the customer service.  If you have a bad restaurant experience, tip (seriously, there is a special place in hell for people who stiff) and don’t go back.  If the store doesn’t have your size, politely ask if they would waive the shipping fee to send it to your house.  If your teller tells you they can’t cash a check for you, ask them what options you have.  There is a certain point where your money stops talking and your actions start.  The majority of people in customer service genuinely want to help you but they are confined by the company in how they can do that.  Have compassion for your fellow man.  You never know, that person you are yelling at might be the next client to walk into your place of business.

Until next time,

June

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About June

June was born and raised in the south where “bless your heart” is an insult. Self professed serial dater and an expert in all matters of the heart. June also enjoys volunteering, dancing and sewing.

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