NOT Customer Service

Standing in front of a glass case holding up a cotton glove I had asked a young girl who was busy cracking her gum loudly and with all the muscles in her mouth, the price of the pair of gloves. When she finished chatting with a co-worker she deigned to tell me the gloves were $8.00. Shocked, I responded, “For wrist length cotton gloves?” Continuing her oral exercise she snapped, “This is the 1980s!” I dropped the glove, turned and left the store.

Many companies have “customer service” phone numbers on their bills, but I think it is truly a misnomer. Garfield the cat once put it considerably more succinctly, with his deadpan expression viewing the reader saying, “…you have clearly mistaken me for someone who cares.”

For six years I worked as a customer service rep for an insurance company. We were supervised by people who looked at our telephone display window to see how long we had been talking with the client. That was before the phone calls were being listened in on or recorded for supervisory approval or reproach of methods used (also called quality control). One supervisor strolling over toward me said aloud, “Twelve minutes with ONE client?” Like the person on the other end of the line couldn’t hear the comment.

My idea of helping customers is to do so knowledgeably, courteously and pleasantly, a notion which has gone the way of the silent movies. The whole concept of courtesy in today’s society is archaic.

A woman I once dealt with at a local bank gave me her business card and I have used it a couple of times to get some help over the phone, which is not available on the normal menu driven response system indicated on their letterhead and billing materials. Today when I called that number the first thing the young woman who answered the line said was, “You can call the number on the back of your credit card!” I told her I wanted to talk to a person and she told me I had to come in to one of the branches for the service I wanted. I guess that my humble amount of business just isn’t that important to them.

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