Human Resources Insights
What Ever Happened to Customer Service?
I don’t know if you can but I remember when customer service was real. It was down-to-earth, genuine, caring for and about the customer. I know that I’m aging myself a bit, but there was a time when the customer came first and businesses did everything they could to keep you. Here are some examples of what I can recall…
• When a gas station attendant would run out of the office, greet you with “hello, how may I help you” and pump your gas. They even managed to clean your windshield and the side mirrors as well.
• I can remember when there was no charge for a bank account, you were greeted with a smile and the teller would take my $5.00 deposit for my savings account and write the new balance in my passbook. There was no monthly fee or service charge for a low balance (this banking experience is non-existent today).
• I remember when you could return to a merchant with goods or services that you paid for that were faulty and they apologized for the inconvenience and took care of the problem right away (not like today where you do all the work to fix a service problem and get nothing but attitude and excuses).
• I remember a time when you’d walk through a door and anyone ahead of you would hold it for you and wait, and it was natural to say “thank you” to them with sincerity for the courtesy! (today that same door just gets slammed in your face).
• I remember when “service” meant someone serving you and you tipped according to the quality of that service (now a certain percentage tip is expected regardless of quality of service).
So, what is service like today? Well it’s like those situations that I’ve mentioned above in parentheses. It’s a “fix your own problems” and “don’t bother me” experience in many ways. Let me give you some examples.
• I called my credit card bank company about a fraud situation the other day and they said I’d have to call the merchant where the fraud charges came from? Hmmm. I didn’t make those purchases, so why wouldn’t they even speak to me or refund the erroneous charges? Again, do it yourself mentality of passing
• I had a poorly prepared meal with burnt food at a local BBQ establishment at a large casino and spoke to the server and then the manager about the poor quality of food. I hadn’t even asked yet for a replacement or refund and she just looked at me and said “Hmmm” – and then she walked away doing nothing at all.
I know there are other “old timers” out there who think just like me. If we are looking for or trying to establish that thing called “service” then we will have to get a time machine and travel to the past. I don’t believe that our current societal or social norms have the slightest clue or capacity for serving others. I know I sound harsh and judgmental, but I have a basis for my opinions. It’s in my DNA and permeates my every thought. I notice the impatience, rudeness and lack of caring in almost every encounter. If ever we want to return to a polite society and any semblance of “service,” here’s what we must do going forward…
• Teach our children manners and courtesy.
• Lead by example–show the behaviors that we want them to have.
• Stop making excuses for life not giving us all that we “deserve.”
• Develop a work ethic and then find pride in our accomplishments.
• Be thankful for what we have, such as: our health, family, food on the table and place to sleep as well as a safe and free country.
I think that the key to bringing back customer service is to develop the capacity to again care about the customer experience and then train to those expectations. It has to become a high priority for business to care about and understand what it’s like for your patrons as a customer of your establishment. I believe, with all my heart, we truly do care but that we have just lost our way due to technology and greed. We need to bring back those solid attributes of communication, caring about others, and respect–and we can recover if we try.
Finally, if you’ve had any similar and interesting “service” experiences, I welcome you to drop me a line and share those situations. I plan to have ongoing articles on this topic every 2-3 months and will print your stories.
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