Customer Service is Dead

I have been told of a time, long before my birth, a time before everyone was a snowflake of unfathomable worth, where something called ‘customer service’ existed universally. A time in which you could walk into a place of commerce, and be greeted by a knowledgeable, helpful, and friendly staff. Being on the receiving end of good service didn’t leave you with a sense of amazement and renewed hope for your species – it’s just how things worked. Customer service was part of your job if you worked in a service industry, which seems like a redundant thing to say, but apparently it isn’t.

Presently, finding anything less than abysmal customer service is like finding Unicorn eggs. Instead of telling people about our horrible experiences, we now tell people about the rare occasions in which we experience good customer service. And people fucking listen to these stories with interest. That’s how bad things have gotten. Not only will you feel compelled to share your positive experience as a customer, people will stop and listen to it.

I recently received insanely good customer service from my cable provider when I needed to replace my modem. My visit to the store was handled quickly, professionally, and politely. I was blown away by this and told pretty much everyone I saw for the rest of the day, all of whom stopped to listen and usually reacted with as much confusion and/or surprise as if I told them that I had found a time machine.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I have had piss poor customer service more often than not. It seems like the majority of people I hire (or attempt to hire) no longer understand that I am paying them for a service, which, in a not so roundabout way, means they work for me.

My wife and I recently put our house on the market for a few months. We hired a realtor and (foolishly) thought that she was going to be doing something to justify the vulgar amount of money she stood to make from selling our home and helping us find another home in the area. We were dead wrong about this.

For the weeks that followed a pretty ugly picture began to paint itself – we were doing all the fucking work. The realtor managed to show our house once, even though our neighbor (who was working without a realtor) was showing his home at least three times each week. We would send emails or leave messages that would go unanswered for days at a time, but when she sent an email, we got a call asking why we had not responded within a couple of hours. She consistently talked down to us, and would be very obviously offended when we wouldn’t rearrange our work schedules to meet with her, or refused some of her suggestions. Once we could take it no more, we terminated our contract, which (predictably) was met with a series of aggressive emails demanding to know why we were taking our home off of the market.

You can go ahead and unknot your underoos – I know all realtors are not this way, this is just the most recent incident in a long running series of horrible customer service from allegedly professional people.

This begs the question – why is good customer service currently so hard to find?

Self-esteem.

After the crashing tide of self-esteem washed over the entirety of our culture, one thing became pretty apparent – everyone is better than the job they have. If we have been told our entire life that we are intelligent and creative and unique and flawless, chances are we feel above working some kind of ‘regular’ job. This is why ordering food or drink at a counter is met with an eye roll if you deviate from the numbered system presented to you. This is why you stand at a desk and wait for someone to finish a personal call before doing their job. This is a large factor in why self-checkout stations exist.

People feel above their station in life, which is a kind of okay thing if you turn that into motivation to actually improve your circumstances, but most people don’t. Instead, they do a shitty job as some sort of postmodern protest, semi-unconsciously hoping that a day will come in which someone notices their frustration and hands them a six-figure corporate position.  Because, you know, that makes all kinds of sense.

As much as this pisses me off, I’ve been guilty of it as well, mostly at a job I actually enjoyed, which is pretty absurd. In my late teens, I worked at a mom and pop video store, where I very much channeled my inner Randall Graves. I spent the overwhelming majority of my working hours watching movies, reading books, talking about movies, and hanging out with my friends who would stop by from time to time. If a customer had the audacity to interrupt one of my movies I know that they received shit customer service from me. I suppose I felt like my time and movie watching were more important than the needs of the customer, which they totally weren’t.

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This is the sort of mentality that assassinated customer service. Our self-esteem has been inflated to the point that most people feel more important than their job, the tasks involved in that job, and the customers. I shouldn’t have to feel excited when I observe someone doing their job well, but I do. I was probably worse than most of the customers at the video store – all I was doing with my life at the time was going to college, smoking weed, and watching a ridiculous amount of movies. I had done absolutely nothing to justify the pedestal I had placed my time and worth upon. My job and the service I provided were meaningless at best in the grander scheme of things, and only a few years later, that entire job was usurped and automated by Redbox.

Instead of lamenting about our station in life and wondering why we aren’t given something better, we would all be better served by wondering what we could do to earn it.

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