The battle over customer service

We have all been there waiting in line at the bank. It’s your turn, but instead of being served the teller goes on break without even saying a word to your eager eyes trying to make contact with her. This is not bad customer service. It is bad training by management.

You’re late for an appointment, so you leave before completing your transaction. Later, you try calling your bank but end up being routed around India or the Philippines just because you want to talk to a manager. This is not bad customer service. It is poor business management.

You go into the grocery store to buy a frozen pizza. You wait in line for more than 15 minutes while the person in front of you complains to the cashier that they were over charged. The cashier doesn’t know how to fix the problem and the customer gets more and more angry and begins to yell. The manager is finally available and comes to rescue the cashier from this irate person. The manager apologizes for the cashier’s inability to resolve the issue quickly and gives the customer a discount coupon for her next visit. This is bad customer service.

The saying the “customer is always right” is an enabler. It allows people to ask for unreasonable service. It gives them a right to treat employees poorly. Management is scared to lose business, so they are more likely to reprimand an employee than a customer.

Posted signs such as “Right to Refuse Service” are not always upheld. A service cannot be denied based on color, religion, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, or even political affiliation (Federal Civil Rights Act and Unruh Civil Rights Act). But a service can be withheld if the person is drunk, hostile, aggressive, or just plain rude.

As a former store clerk, I have been yelled at, threatened, and insulted. Nowhere in my job description did it say that I would be exposed to these types of behaviors. Excelling at your job is hard enough without having to worry about the moods of your customers. And when you earn minimum wage, it just isn’t worth it to be degraded by a complete stranger.

Most of us cannot afford to lose our jobs even if we feel it is necessary to stand up to being treated unfairly. What we can do, however, is stand up for each other and not abuse our rights as customers – simply because we are not ALWAYS right. Society has taught us the more aggressive we are, the more likely we will get what we want. If we expect friendly service, we need to be friendly in return.

Read more about ‘The Customer is Always Right” at Chief Happiness Officer.  

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