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Lauren

While we all have had our bad customer service experiences, after living in France for 3 plus years, I've gotten used to it.

For a gruelling 7 months, I worked on a call center for an on-line electronics store. For the most part, I always went above and beyond the call of duty to sort out a customer's problems. Especially in the beginning of my short-lived career. Towards the end however, after being sworn at by strangers, delt with customers complaining for the pure reason of trying to see if they can get something free out of me, and being insulted for being an American "imperialist", you start to care a little less about your customers.

Needless to say, me and my colleagues drank a LOT after work just to shake off the aural assualt and lack of respect shown to us on a daily basis.

If the salary paid enough for a nightly bottle of vodka and a really good therapist, perhaps we'd have better customer service.

Atul

I can understand what you're saying. I didn't think of that. Unreasonable customers indirectly lead to bad customer service. I used to work at my parents' dry cleaning store and we had our share of people who wore clothes after we drycleaned them and then came back a week later to tell us that we didn't press them properly. Perhaps that implies that employees should be paid more to have to deal with such people. But then, as a business owner, it was tough finding honest, reliable employees who were worth paying more to. It's a vicious cycle.

+ Atul

Sereena X

Most of the bad service I've encountered hasn't been rude or slow; it's the incompetence that is really the worst. So many service reps seem extremely confused and disorganized. Recently I had to return an electronic item that was under warranty. The service itself was excellent (new replacement product delivered to my door very quickly), but the actual phone contact was pathetic. The company is based in the States, and their actual customer service is in Canada. Nothing against Canada (a lovely place), but this person assigned to my "case" was clueless. She had no idea where the item was when she called ME to ask if we had received it yet. She was also under the impression that the original item was going to be repaired and sent back (not true.) She called a few times, and each time she had to "keep checking" and her "computer was slow" ...this was a computer manufacturer, incidentally. Why did she keep calling with no new information? Bored? Lonely? She kept me on hold for about 10 minutes (more "checking" --checking into something mysterious, obviously). Finally I hung up the phone. The replacement item arrived a few days later.

I usually get good service at most businesses, including online companies. People are nice to me, and I'm always cordial unless they are inconsiderate morons.

That said, Best Buy is one place I will never ever never grace with my pre$en$e. Not if it's the last store on earth.

Donny B

Customer Service. Two words that make me cringe. Unfortunately, due to my lack of employment luck, I may have to go back down that road again.

Why do I loathe it so? Because, although the majority of customers are fine, it only takes one or two bad ones to really mess up your day. Customers demand things they don't deserve, believe they're entitled to stuff they have no right being entitled to, and will full-out lie if they complain to management.

But it's strange. There are also some seriously awesome people out there who completely defy the expectations of even the most bitchy, cynical sales associates out there. Of course, they're so rare they're basically consumer unicorns.

I think everyone could benefit from having to work one year as either a waiter/waitress or in retail. You have a completely new appreciation for people, and a much more well-rounded perspective.

Lauren

Sereena, I think you hit on a good point here. Lack of training. If companies took new employees on a few days training (a nice locale wouldn't hurt either), taught them to fall in love with the product and gave them confidence and skills in dealing with difficult customers, i think the monetary benefit would be massive.

At my electronics job, I was a really great salesperson (and a huge flirt), I once sold a guy not only a completely different camcorder than the one he was originally after because it was out of stock, but he ended up buying TWO. Unfortunately my boss told me that I needed to work on the length of my phone calls.

So I did. I stopped taking my time with each customer. When the boss wanted to make a positive example of me and asked me how did I manage to get my talk time down so much, I said " I stopped having fun".

Monica

While working in a customer service field, I certainly had my share of rude and demanding callers. But I also had an overly bureaucratic THREE (count them) levels of supervision. Management gave often conflicting guidelines for service, or would make policy changes amongst themselves without communicating those changes clearly to folks like me - who would then get hassled for not following the mysterious, unwritten new policies.

Then they started policing things a little more in terms of the exact phrases one should use in certain situations - in my opinion, that's one of the most dehumanizing things about customer service is when you're required to follow a "script" rather than just talking with a person. Thankfully, I was in the process of leaving that job anyway.

Bottom line? Treat me like a robot, and eventually I'll behave like a robot. Hassle me over things I can't control, and I'll stop caring about whether you like how I do my job or not. In the immortal words of Ron Livingston in "Office Space", "My only motivation is not to get hassled."

Sereena X

Did anyone else notice the permalink: "...universally_poo.html"?

Stephen V Funk

Customer service... wheee...

For better or worse, I've been working in sales, retail, and customer service for the past 20 years... (wow.)

Good customer service is not difficult, but it is not natural for many people. You can "train" certain things, but if someone is not inherently disposed toward customer service, it's really obvious to everyone -- especially the customer. It's easy to develop a defensive, combative, or -- most often -- indifferent attitude toward customers... and therefore, the customer starts to expect, anticipate, and adopt these attitudes as well. Conflict is the result...

Most service I encounter is merely "functional" rather than "bad...". The worst service seems to occur at places where you need the most help or are the most vulnerable (hospital check-in counters, insurance call centers, the dreaded DMV, etc.)

As Monica mentioned, a disturbing new trend as companies attempt to "improve" their "customer care" is to force reps to say unnatural, scripted things to each customer whether it pertains to their situation or not. Ridiculously long greetings and incessant attempts to promote "special add-on features" are now part of the unpleasant experience of dealing with banks, phone companies, and even grocery stores... sometimes the best service is just giving the customer what he wants without undue hassle and time wasted.

The ability to naturally and consistently offer high quality customer service is certainly an undervalued, undercompensated, and rare skill. The "boys at the top" love to expound upon the need for better "customer care experiences" but most of them have never spent a day "in the trenches" with customers, and they insist upon paying the absolute minimum wages (with little or no benefits) to the employees on the "front lines."

It's messed up... but unfortunately the consumer doesn't seem to really value good service either anymore. Most seem to prefer saving a few bucks at a superstore like Wal-Mart where they treat their service staff like dirt, rather than pay a little more at a place where customer service is actually a priority (and accordingly the service staff is paid better.)

Man, that was a long and boring comment... sorry! More wine, please!

Donny B

Sereena, I noticed that, too! How appropriate...

Atul

Good discussion. I see the point that employees have to deal with bad customers and that's why customers get bad service, but why should employees have a bad attitude with all customers? Initially, they deserve to be treated as good, reasonable customers (until proven otherwise). And I know morale can get low when management isn't the best, or is driving efficiency over service, but I'm not allowed to treat all managers I deal with poorly if one is bad.

Stephen makes a good point that people just want the best price and not good service, but perhaps that happened because they gave up on good service so they might as well get the best price.

I think it's all about pushing costs as low as possible. Good service doesn't lead to immediate returns and corporations in the U.S. seem to focus on short-term profits. It's as if all the executives forgot all the things they learned in business school about the extremely negative impact of bad word-of-mouth and the long term profit benefits of good service. But then, if they all provide bad service, it's a wash. So people like me make blogposts to complain about bad service everywhere.

+ Atul

Atul

I had nothing to do with the universal poo. It was totally random. I wish I had. :-)

RW

Um... too many service calls going to India?

JOKE! PUT THAT STICK DOWN!!!

Atul

I think the people handling the calls in India are probably less rude because they're just worried about sounding American with their fake names and life stories. Plus they get paid well by Indian standards so they're probably happier.

+ Atul

Huck

You all make very valid points. I have been in some type of customer service for fifteen years. I think there is one more point that needs observing. We in the United States, and perhaps the world "Demand" service. We go into a restaurant after an hour in traffic and are pissed off because we have to wait in line yet again just to get a table and have to wait again for the server to come by and take our drink order and then wait again to order our food. All the while we the customer are inpatient, ugly, and basically jerks, and we still "Demand" service. It is my opiniion one can not demand service from a person, service should be extended from one person to another. All be it there are jerks on both sides of the coin, but I think the jerks in us are a product of our hurry up I want it yesterday society. We are spoiled, untrained, uncaring

Whitney

"If more commercial and government establishments don't get their act together soon, I think I'm going to go live in the woods so that I won't have to depend on clerks, salespeople, or customer "service" representatives ever again."

Seriously? The problem is THAT bad? Okay I get thats a hyberbole but still. Between store policies/regulations and the limited resources at hand there is only so much said salespeople, ect. can do.

I hear a lot of bad service this and that but very little actual examples. I worked in a target store for 3 months when I was nineteen and I could go on and on about outrageous customers.

The one that stands out in my mind the most was this younger woman who approached me asking about a shirt in the weekly ad. She said, "I need this shirt in pink, extra large. It should be here, its not" I glance at the item on the page and imediately see why shes having problems. I respond, "Im sorry, this shirt is only in girls child sizes (point to text) and not carried in our store (point to 'only available in selected stores')" I figured she would probaly just be a bit disapointed and maybe even a little embarrased but not at all. The woman becomes very upset and begins complaining as if she not reading the entire ad was somehow my fault. So I said, "mam I really dont know what you want me to do about this." She still demanded the shirt we didn't carry in a size it didn't exist in.

I think a big issue with customer service is that often customers excerise their right to be as ignorant as possible and assume someone else should have every answer for them. Now its one thing asking where home improvement stuff is located at a large chain store, its another to ask detailed home improvment questions; just go to a specialty hardware store.

My fiance is still a manager at that store and I dont know how he puts up with all the crazy questions and demands. "Im sorry sir, im not sure which toaster oven can cook a potato the fastest but ill gladly leaf through every manual for you." "No mam, im not sure which toy will provide the greatest intellectual stimulation for your cat but you can try them both and return the undesired with the receipt within 90 days." No joking.

Willie

I have had it with customer service, I don't know if I am disgusted with customer service that humanity provides, or it is just in United States. It has gotten to the point that I want to leave this country to see how it is in other countries. I went to Thailand for a month and had nothing but great customer service even with the language barrier. I am sick with day to day uncompetent people!!!!

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