Dan Hull asks, “is it just me?”
Year after year, the cult of customer/client service “trends” stridently in books, trade journals, company meetings and on the internet. Service gurus are multiplying. Everyone is writing, gushing and testifying about the importance of service, often implying that service is no problem to establish and maintain. Businesses in every industry are proclaiming in giddy, self-congratulatory tones that service is, and has been for the last fifty or so years, a “core value” and “touchstone” of their success.
And yet every year, the service that each of us experience on a daily basis in our own lives is getting worse and worse.
Empty, fuzzy rhetoric tells us how much they love us instead of actions showing us that they care. They repeat, ad nauseum, their apologies for our inconvenience, though the failure to perform as promised, as we paid for, is no inconvenience. And then ask if there is anything else they can do for us, despite the fact that the words “anything else” don’t apply when they’ve done nothing for us to begin with.
But you don’t want to be rude and demanding? After all, wouldn’t it make you an unpleasant person to expect people to whom you pay money to perform or fulfill the function you paid for? You confuse being nice with being passive, with being a pushover.
This is their game, and you’re playing it superbly. They count on your being a nice person, too nice to push your complaint after the sweet apology and recitation of their company policy. After all, it’s a policy. Whatever could a customer service representative do? And isn’t it your job to simply sigh, nod your head, and reply, “I understand,” as you hang up the phone and take it like a sucker?
Just about anyone who sells anything. Retail, mainly. Retail banking, insurers, phone companies, utilities and the scads of outside “tech” guys charged with keeping your computers running are the worst. Exceptions: Trader Joe’s and GEICO, and that’s about it. So let’s start getting feisty at stores, coffee shops, on the phone with customer care reps, at doctors’ offices, everywhere you pay for something. Remind them all you have options and choices. You’re a customer, consumer, client or patient? Get off your knees. Demand things. Make them earn or keep your business.
Feisty is a kind way to say that you’re not being rude to demand value for your money, goods that work, services that comport with the promises that induced you to pay for them. Here is a business secret: they don’t really love you. They just want your money.
But it’s not just you. You are screwing it up for me. For your mother. For your cousin in Des Moines. When enough of you get down on your knees and take it, the companies know they will get enough money from the passive buyers that they can ignore the handful of people who expect promises to be kept.
If everyone, however, stopped playing the docile patsy, the chump who nicely responds to the CSR that he “understands” that company policy, the one that says you’re screwed and they’re not, rules the world, things would change. You see, if everybody decided that they were no longer going to flush their money down the toilet by paying it to people who fail to fulfill their promises, then the business model would have to change.
It wasn’t always be this way. There was a time in America where legitimate companies (there were always snake oil salesmen) made products that worked, that lasted, that lived up to their promise. That time could come again, but only if you get off your knees.
Trust me, the CSR doesn’t really want to be your bestie. Her name isn’t really Suzie either. If you hurt her feelings by not stopping when she utters the magic words “company policy,” she will survive. Try it. Find out how it feels to get what you paid for.