Customer Service

A great deal of energy is expended by many of the largest business corporations persuading us that they are truly committed to providing excellent customer service.

If my experience is shared by other consumers looking for reasonable service from businesses, then these claims are hokum.

I am writing this from an Australian perspective, so mentioning specific names is pointless, but I will give some examples of what I have experienced.

A large department store chain is struggling to keep pace with its main competitor. The retailing group owning the department store chain is considering selling off the business, since they cannot see the solution to the poor performance. I have shopped at this department store. One time, I found entering the store to be an eerie, almost surreal experience. There were no people. Eventually, a few staff members and customers ambled into view. I asked for directions to find a product, and was told ‘to the left’ with the wave of an arm, and no eye contact. A little later, I had to wait for the privilege of paying for the item. Staff morale was obviously at rock bottom, and it was no fun to shop there, so people did not bother. Any senior executive could surely have seen and sensed what I did. Too obvious, I guess.

The telephone company had a promotion which involved telemarketers calling and offering a deal that included a free cell phone. When I received the call, the telemarketer was based offshore, and had a heavy accent. To make matters worse, the telephone line was appallingly bad – I could barely hear what was being said. When I said I did not want a free cell phone the telemarketer demanded to know why not. I ended the call as politely as I could. For a telephone company to market its services over poor phone lines with a telemarketer who wants to argue with potential customers simply defies belief.

I was in one of our major banks, and overheard some conversation from the staff behind service desk. One of the staff, obviously experienced, was dealing with what appeared to be a young customer. She seemed flustered. When the ‘customer’ left, her colleague leaned over and said ‘that was a shopper’, to which she replied ‘I thought so’. The shopper was a phantom customer, used by the bank to check if the staff members followed the prescribed formula to deal with a customer. This branch of the bank dealt with customers who were both wealthy and of advanced age, some a little eccentric. To use the formulaic approach would risk driving them away.

We humans are a gregarious species. We enjoy communicating with our fellows – we need to be needed. We are hard wired to cooperate, so helping one another should come naturally. But no, decision makers, out of touch with day to day life, seem to come up with formulas to better what we do naturally. As I said at the start – hokum.

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