Thursday, January 19, 2012

Has Customer Service Become an Oxymoron?

     Today I found myself in the post office waiting to send some books off to reviewers when one of the clerks behind the desk picked up the phone and started shouting, yes shouting, into the phone for a supervisor, This gentleman did not do this once, but three separate times. After his third attempt at trying to track down someone in charge, the man in line next to me turned and mumbled, “Some customer service, huh?” 
     Now this is the post office and most Americans joke about the less than stellar service offered by many government affiliated organizations. But it got me thinking. Has the common courtesy of giving a customer service gone the way of the dodo bird? More and more people are complaining about customer service. Most of the time it isn’t even human customer service but a highly irritating automated system that sends you through a long litany of questions and keys to hit, and even then you still don’t get the help you need. We all know how eager companies are to get our business, especially in these tough economic times, but why does the service disappear after the act of sale. And how many of us have suffered through more bouts of abysmal service, or no service at all, than have had a caring interaction with someone who has actually helped solve our problem.
     After hurricane Katrina many of us in the New Orleans area experienced a rare opportunity of unified outstanding customer service. Not from our insurance companies, don’t even get me started on that, but from electric companies, mortgage companies, water companies, and just about anyone that billed on a monthly basis for their services. I have never experienced such kindness and concern from so many customer service representatives as I did after that storm. But why does it take a natural disaster for us to get the courtesy we deserve? Shouldn’t good customer service be just as important to any company as providing a good product? Or do they just not care about their service or their customers. Is the apathy of the business world toward its customers a reflection of society’s apathy toward its citizens?
     Perhaps we should all stop ranting about the poor quality of everyone else’s customer service and start looking at our own. How we treat other people is just as important as how companies treat us. And the companies that we buy from cannot change unless we change. Kindness starts from the inside out. One caring act will lead to another, and maybe one day, customer service will be a term that makes us smile, instead of cringe. And by the way, after all that shouting, the supervisor never did show up in that post office. I think next time I’ll use FedEx. 

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