Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Whatever Happened to...Customer Service?

Image via bayswater97 flickr
I'm sure that the lack of good customer service in today's society is something that everyone can relate to. I've held off on ranting about it for so long because I used to work in the hotel industry and a grocery store, and having been on both sides, can tell you that the customer is not always right--nay, sometimes they can be downright douchebags. I've also seen people treat perfectly nice retail salespeople horribly and have actually spoken up on more than one occasion and made off-hand comments, within earshot, about how rude they were when it was my turn at the register. 

But lately the tables have been turning, and it's the people working in retail stores who truly have this I-couldn't-give-a-shit-about-you attitude. In the past few months, here are four scenarios I was part of:

1. I was waiting at the counter to buy a blouse at a local consignment shop but the teenaged salesgirl behind it ignored me for a good 2-3 minutes as she was transfixed by her boss, who was assisting another customer as she set off the alarm trying to walk out of the store. She finally said to me without any greeting, "All you all set?" It took all my strength not to say something sarcastic but I did what any good customer does nowadays--I unleashed a bit of my wrath on Yelp. And I was not the only one which tells me there's a problem with the employees in that store. 

2. I was in a local Sephora and asked one of the salesgirls if they had a new black eyeliner pen in stock called Punker. She said she would check and went to another girl and asked her, who just looked at me, shook her head and said, "No, we don't have any left." No mention of when or if it might come back in stock, no mention of looking up another Sephora to see if they had any, and no mention of ordering it on the website. I walked out. 

3. I was getting gas at a station location I don't usually go to, but had no choice as the other location is closed for renovations and they have the best gas prices in town. The guy in the booth was on his phone and didn't even look at me when I told him how many gallons worth I wanted. He did, however, look at the money like he was confused and couldn't subtract $45 from $60. So I repeated myself, he gave me the change, and I took it without saying a word. Pardon me for interrupting your personal phone call, asshat. 

4. I went out to eat with a Meetup group and we were instructed to sit anywhere in the upstairs area. After being ignored by several waitresses walking by, one of them told us the table we were at was reserved, despite the fact that there was no sign on it. After we grabbed another table, the waitress asked what we were going to have for drinks. I said we hadn't received menus yet and politely asked for some. When she bought them out, she dropped them so hard on the table on purpose that they made a THUNK and walked away. Things seemed to go downhill from there. 

Grrrrrrrr.

This is such a departure from customer experiences I had growing up. I can still remember the managers of the shoe store and art supply store I visited as a kid, and the name of the kind man who ran the video store in town, Mr. Zappala (how many store owners today do you know by name?) When Mr. Zappala passed away from cancer, there was an outpouring of support in the local paper because everyone adored him. There were so many smaller mom-and-pop businesses around in the 70s and 80s, run by people whose livelihoods depended upon how happy they could make their customers. They couldn't afford to ignore people who walked through their doors...as that would eventually lead to theirs being shuttered. I can understand that working service jobs does not always deliver the greatest paycheck...but you know what? Neither was my hotel salary, but it was a job that paid my way through college, and therefore I had to respect it and the guests whether I liked it or not. If I didn't, I'd be out of a job. 

So, I think part of the problem here is they're hiring nitwits who just don't care. And with a lousy economy, if a big store like Walmart loses workers, there's ten more out there desperate to replace them for a piddly paycheck. 

Call it part of our increasingly isolated society where no one makes an effort to connect with other human beings. I won't even get into the rise of customer service hell, where you're stuck in "press this for that" purgatory trying to get ahold of a live person. It stinks, and there's not much we consumers can do except take to Yelp and other review sites. 

I came across this 1970s McDonald's training video (gotta love that opening ditty, "the greatest gift you give is the smile you give to your brother...") Nowadays Grumpy Cat doles out more smiles than the workers at McDonald's, but the reason I'm showing it is because there's a segment about a young man who goes to an auto supply store and how he's treated. 

If any of you have some great customer service horror stories to share, please do. 

8 comments:

  1. It all comes back to how these entitled people were raised as kids. My parents would never let me treat people like that. Take solace in the fact that these people are going to find the world a very difficult place if they carry their attitudes over into an office job. With the way competition is for jobs, they'll be the last to be hired.

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  2. It's interesting you mention the mom and pops, I still find these places offer great customer service. I am a procurement director in a small company, so I deal with suppliers every day. The competition for my business is fierce, so I'm not very tolerant of poor service in general. Sometimes, it's not their fault the order shipped late or the incorrect parts were sent and I will only point out the discrepancy while still being nice. Sometimes, however, I get this "don't care" attitude usually from an underling. That does not bode well for them, I'll take it all the way to the CEO if I'm not getting satisfactory service. I would suggest that you do the same. Never take rudeness or an uncaring attitude from a customer rep, I don't care who it is. If you demand to speak to the manager, they are usually required to speak to you. If you get no satisfaction from him, go to his boss even if it requires you write a letter directly to him. Most businesses, no matter how large or small are competing for your business and there is usually someone in the chain of command that DOES care. In my experience, the manager will generally handle the situation and it doesn't require any more than that. It doesn't require nastiness, just giving a calm, rational explanation almost always will suffice and they're more likely to be helpful if you're not abusive. Most of the time, people do what you do, grit their teeth and deal, but I'm telling you it isn't helpful to you or the company. Most of the time, they want feedback, whether positive or negative so they can correct mistakes. Sometimes you just gotta be a tiger.

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  3. There is zero customer service these days :(

    If I was the boss of most people these days in customer service roles, I'd fire them. Pleasantries aren't that hard.

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  4. The common thread is places that tout "service" also simply hire warm bodies en masse to fill positions; there is little screening or charm training done like the McDonalds example. It all starts at home; some parents raise their kids like perpetual infants, not like future adults that have to live and prosper in an adult world. Then leaving the responsibility to the World to wear off their kid's rough surfaces. Many will never will learn in time, if at all. I worked at McDs for many years in the 70s where we watched such videos, and they truly expected positive behavior and attitude (not sure nowadays). Because of behavior lessons learned on the front counter, I (and now my kids) have been complimented and rewarded. But it all started at home (Thanks Mom!)
    s-a-h-d

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  5. Retail manager here for 25 years and whats going on is two fold. One, companies have been fighting over the same customers for years, and its worse now than ever. Result? Bosses that are so terrified of a complaint, customers who have been so babied that one screaming person who demands attention by the entire crew that the rest of the customers have no service. This type of person comes in daily and loves to be the center of attention, good or bad. The second is that even my employees who are in their early 20's agree, people are not taught by their parents to have any self control in public anymore. My store is in a very high income area. The women's restroom has had to be repaired twice in the last year. One of them is for a toilet that was broken in half. I worked in a auto garage 30 years ago and that never happened. Customer service's original title was TRADE. You give me money, I give you what your looking for in return. As a customer, I'm not looking for a friend, just the item I'm looking for at a reasonable price. I have actually been so hounded by "Service", that I forgot what I came in for. The fact that making a purchase is an event (one customer told me she had to throw away the dozens of boxes of toothpaste she bought because they were out of date) in itself, may be why we don't really get much accomplished. Now we have people who buy things to brag about it, and then never use it. I'm so proud.

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  6. Don't get me started! Well.. too late. Heh Heh. I could go on for hours, but I have a good one from last week. My son and I spent 2 hours in an optometrist office last week. Not to mention any names, AHEM.. "See-Life".

    BTW.. this place had an assistant do EVERY single test on our eyes, and I only saw the optometrist for the last 5 minutes of my exam.

    Anyway.. the gal gave me attitude when I opted not to get a certain test that dilates your eyes. I couldn't get a ride home, so I couldn't get it done. Plus.. my insurance wouldn't cover it anyway. She actually was trying to explain how foolish it was for me to skip the test. I told her we got these tests done last year, didn't have a ride home, and finally how I couldn't afford it if I wanted to do it anyway.

    She really hated it when I told her that times are tough, and asked her if it was her.. could she afford the extra fees?

    When she finally accepted the fact that we weren't going to get the extra tests done, she rolled her eyes.. huffed.. and was really short with me for the duration of my exam. And it wasn't much better with the other gal who was taking care of our fittings.

    This broad copped an attitude when I didn't opt for some transition lenses she tried to up-sell me on for an extra $300.00! Same thing as the last lady. She told me why I needed this new transition technology, and was not amused when I asked her.. "Could you afford an extra $300.00 out of your weekly wages to get some transition lenses with new technology?" I'm sure she was irked that she was losing a commission, because what she did next was crazy.

    When it came time to pay for mine and my son's glasses, she asked if she could examine my drivers license. No problem right? She then made a point of telling me that my driver's license picture didn't look enough "like me", so she needed to closely examine the signature on the back of my credit card while I signed my credit receipt. Oh yeah.. this was AFTER they already had my social security number, and all of my insurance information.

    So in my case.. it wasn't that the workers didn't give a crap. No.. they were almost acting as if they owned the flippin' place, and took offense that I didn't buy into their up-sells. The end result, was that they were going to make me feel as uncomfortable as they could.

    I guess I should've said something to management or the owners, but this was the first time I had patronized this establishment, so it's easier for me to just get a referral from friends next time, as to who they have had good experiences with.

    It makes me think.. how many places lose customers and have no clue as to why, all because of their crappy employees?

    I still may say something, but will make sure we have our glasses first, so they don't accidentally "drop" or misplace our spectacles. LOL

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  7. Sorry to hear you had to go through, Darrin. I know some eye doctors are going to take issue with what I'm about to say, but I'll tell you something about the pupil dilation test...my (now retired) eye doctor that I had for 30 years (I first started going to him when I was 4 years old and visited him for the last time before his retirement about 5 years ago) NEVER dilated my pupils in all those years I went to him. On my last visit I asked him why and he said it's often not necessary! He said it should really only be done if it seems there's a problem or something that the doctor really needs to look at. He considered it an unnecessary procedure that just costs extra money and is an inconvenience for the patient. I've only had it done once at another eye office and hated that I couldn't see or use the computer for about 8 hours afterwards.

    It's ALL about how much money they can get out of you for services that simply aren't needed. And they don't care about the economy and that some people want to cut their spending. She shouldn't have given you that kid of attitude.

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  8. We always used to laugh at the phrase "In order to serve you better..." It always means that you, the consumer, are about to get screwed for the comvenience of the business. The ultimate instance of this was a sign in a store window that read, "In order to serve you better, this store is closed."

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