Monday, February 27, 2012

"Sociopathically" Seeking Service?

We hear a lot these days about customer service or the lack thereof. We complain about rude wait-staff, long lines, screwed up drive thru orders (end of the world problems like, OMG! I ordered a double-double not a french vanilla!) and high prices. We use our “communicators”, i.e. smart phones and ipads to link into social networking sites to spread the message about that “horrible store” we just visited.

Have you ever considered that it might be us…..not them? That perhaps we placed emotional, physical and psychological stumbling blocks to receiving great customer service?

In our lust for great customer service (yes lust), we have placed all responsibility on the service provider to create our experience. That doesn’t seem fair does it?

Whether it be the unsmiling first encounter, the obvious lack of respect for someone behind the counter or talking on a cell phone while at the counter (yes…..I DID just progressively raise my voice), we have placed stumbling blocks to receiving great customer service.

This past Christmas, I was proceeding through a fast food drive through (don’t judge me, I am not a machine) and overheard the gal in the vehicle immediately in front of me, scream at the employee through the exterior mic. I mean the gal SCREAMED like she had been done wrong in a big way; like there were gators’ nipping at her extremities. She went on to scream that they had better, “put regular coke in her order this time…and not that diet crap!”.

Yep…..I would call that a stumbling block – loud and clear.

That clerk/employee had done nothing wrong except be wearing the same uniform as an incompetent co-worker. She deserved no disrespect by the customer. The clerk was clearly shaken, but did not take the bait and respond negatively to the customer. If it were me, I probably would have gone all “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die” (random Princess Bride reference)….but obviously she was better than that.

When I got to the window, I asked her, “are you okay?”. She looked like she was going to cry and responded that, “it happens all the time” but “wishes that more people were in the Christmas spirit”. You see… was the day before Christmas Eve.

I am sorry folks, but the customer is not always right.

I threw the following question out to my facebook friends and they responded en masse. I asked, “send me some examples of customers not living up to their end of the bargain”.

The responses were varied, but a common thread ran throughout.

‘Everyone deserves to be treated with respect’ and ‘Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise’ (Yeats - a variation from a bible verse and yes…I have smart friends).

Many of us are guilty (myself included) of eye rolling and expelling heavy sighs, which is probably gateway behaviour to something more offensive. We can turn this ship around, but it will take a commitment. Are you with me? Okay then….

Customers (You and I) have but few responsibilities. Here are some suggestions from my facebook posse:

Not talking on the phone: While you are transmitting and receiving information with someone on your phone, you are unable to transmit and receive information with the waiter, the sales clerk, etc. Get off the phone and give them your full attention. Doing so is a sign of respect.

Not texting, tweeting, facebooking or game playing: Look up….way up from your phone and make some eye contact. If you don’t pay attention you might get a rare steak when you asked for well done and ya….it kinda will be your fault.

Being on time for a reservation, hair appointment, massage appointment….etc: If you are late, then it makes for a delay for the next person/group and so on, and so on, and so on. As a consequence, the hair-dresser, massage therapist, nail technician, etc. will probably not get lunch/coffee break/have to stay late.

Place blame appropriately: For example, don’t blame (and not tip) the server because the food wasn’t up to par. Ask to speak with the Chef or Manager.

Let’s remember….the service industry is not only comprised of servers, sales clerks and coffee barista’s. Even when we don’t maintain a storefront, we provide customer service to our coworkers.

Now…if I can get off this darn soapbox without falling….

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