Remember When Customer Service Meant Serving?

Posted: Aug 22, 2019 11:31 AM
Remember When Customer Service Meant Serving?

Source: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

It wasn’t all that long ago you called a business and actually got a human being on the other end of the phone. If you left a message, chances were good you’d get a return call the same day.

In those days, when a contractor or service tech told you they’d show up between 2 and 3, it was better than even odds they’d be there.

I can remember when a doctor’s or dentist’s appointment for 10 am meant you were in the exam room by 10:05 instead of cooling your jets in a crowded waiting room.

I’m even old enough to remember when you could buy a major appliance and count on it lasting five years or more.

Oh, the good old days.  What’s happened?

Now a machine answers the phone, runs you through a huge number of menu options, offers no chance to speak with a real human, and often no chance to leave a message. Even when you do leave a message, you often never hear back.

Now, we’re given a 4 to 7 hour window when to expect someone and very often they still don’t show when they’re supposed to.

In today’s world we all know the doctor or dentist will very often keep you waiting 30 minutes or more and never offer an apology.

And that South Korean fridge with the $2,000 price tag… within 2 years you can expect to pay some repairman a huge fee to tell you it’s a piece of junk he wouldn’t be caught dead owning.  

If any of this sounds familiar, welcome to the year 2019. You can be sure it will get worse before it gets better.

Two articles recently in the Wall Street Journal make the point.  

The first explains how businesses track rude or complaining customers. The fact they even do so suggests they know their service will cause trouble and rather than improve it, they punish you for being secure enough to complain about it.

And nevermind their service gives you a “mad as hell, not going to take it anymore” attitude. They insist you be nice to the incompetent it’s taken you 30 minutes or more to get on the phone.

The second article talks about a scoring system many businesses use to rank their customers. Spend enough money, and even though you’re regularly grumpy, you get high-end treatment.  Don’t spend enough, and even infrequent grumpiness goes unexcused. You’ll end up in voicemail hell where you’ll be asked to press one to take a short survey about your customer service experience. Beware when pressing the 1 that starts the survey? Oops, you get disconnected.

I suppose it’s hard to blame them. These days people seem more rude, quarrelsome, difficult, and mannerless than ever before.

On the other hand, people have more reason to be frustrated than they’ve ever had before. Sales clerks often couldn’t care less. Very few days go by I don’t receive 10 or more robo calls from someone trying to sell me something I don’t need or want. Banks, credit card companies, and online retailers are regularly giving notice they’ve been hacked and your private information has been compromised.

Let’s be honest. Much of what passes for customer service cannot by any honest reckoning of the language be called service. And many of the products these days move from home, to garage, to yard sale in record time.

When I find a company that thinks they’re doing me a favor when I buy their products, or penalize me for attempting to solve a problem by calling them, I simply stop doing business with that company. They don’t deserve my money, and I try to make sure they know why they’re losing a really good customer.

Don’t reward bad service with good money; trust me, it won’t get better with a second chance.