When Did Customer Service Become Such a Battle?

I hate to complain, but I am oh so very tired of customers that feel they have the right to treat employes poorly and staff that give subpar customer service. As someone who has always worked in customer service in one way or another I am appalled to witness the way we treat each other within this industry.  It seems like every time I go to work their is someone screaming in one of my coworkers faces and every time I go out there is some employe who looks like they absolutely hate their life.

Before I continue I’d like to define exactly what I mean by “customer service.” The term tends to bring a few specific jobs to mind. People such as waiters, and sales clerks. The way I see it though is that if you interact with the customers you are delivering product to at any point during your day, you work in customer service. This means doctors, lawyers, teachers, executives, they all work in customer service. They are providing people with services or products which they want or need and they must engage with those individuals throughout the transaction. This could be face to face, on the phone or through email. It all leaves an impact and it is all important.

But lets get back to the negative interactions I keep seeing in customer service. Let me start by giving you a few examples of the kind of customers that frustrate me:

1. A family brings a hat up to a cash register to pay. After she has already paid and been informed that there are no refunds. the mother notices that the hat is broken. She returns to the cash and asks for a refund. When the I politely says I will have to get my manager to approve the refund the parents start screaming at me and accusing me of being rude and unhelpful to the point where their entire order ends up being refunded.

2. A woman approaches me screaming and trying to get by. I explain to the woman that she is not allowed in that area of the store. The woman continues to scream and tries to get past me. I do not touch the woman but do not move out of her way. The woman falls, accuses me of pushing her and then when I ask if she is ok the woman puts her hands around my neck and pushes me to try and get me to move. When the woman is finally removed and calms down it gets discovered that her children had run ahead of her and were standing on the other side of me. Which I had not understood since she approached me screaming. (Side note, the children were in no danger and were in sight, simply not where they were allowed to be).

Bad right? I don’t know what the customers’ perspectives are on the situations, I wasn’t about to try and figure it out when their first reaction was to yell in my face. I don’t know when it became acceptable behaviour to just start yelling and calling people names when we don’t get our way, but it sure doesn’t give me any desire to help a customer at all. Though sadly, I do somewhat understand where they are coming from. There are so many places where unless you freak out, staff really don’t care to help you. Situations like the following:

1. I moved to a new apartment unit within the same building. I called a month in advance to ask my internet provider what I needed to do to make sure my internet got transferred on time. They told my I needed to call 2 weeks before the move date to schedule the internet switch. I called and was told my request had been processed and that if I didn’t have interned by 6pm the day of the move to call them. At 6pm I had no internet. I called to inquire and they said that my order had somehow been lost in processing. No one apologized to me and I got bumped around between people on the phone for 2 hours getting told that I would have to wait 2 weeks for internet. I stayed calm and reasonable throughout the conversation, persisting that two weeks was too long to wait, but remaining polite. It wasn’t until I finally pretended to cry that they took me seriously, transferred me to someone higher up, apologized, offered me refunds and got my internet installed the next morning.

2. I sat down at a restaurant not wanting to be there long. My order got lost and all my friends got their food but I did not. The server didn’t notice (though there were a lot of us, so I don’t blame her for that). When I went up to ask her she replied by saying “Oh, I forgot.” And went to punch it in without even apologizing to me. When I politely told her that I didn’t have time to stay so not to bother ordering it now her response was “It won’t be that long, it’s only nachos, you can’t wait five minutes?”

How did we get to this point where staff view customers as just the way they pay their rent and customers view staff as their own designated punching bags? I’m not even sure which came first. All I can say is that I tired of it. There are so many great people out there who take pride in their work and others who really appreciate being treated with respect. I am tired of their great deeds being drowned out by the negative actions of the few.

Now I’m not trying to say that I am the perfect employe or the perfect customer, but I have a fairly decent track record. We are all human. We make mistakes and we don’t always succeed in communicating with others. It seems though that in the customer service industry we frequently forget the simple fact that we are all human beings. An apology goes a long way and so does a smile. I am not your mother or your best friend, I will not love you regardless of what you do to me. But whether I am visiting your place of work or you are visiting mine I deserve respect and so do you.