Friday, February 18, 2011

Customer Service

Let’s discuss customer service shall we?  The two root words of that sentence should give you some clue as to what the expected course of action should be in a venue that relies on people to purchase products. Now I know the economy is hurting so fewer people are being hired to work and fewer people are out shopping so one problem compounds another. I also understand the “last hired, first fired” mind set which hurts those who are younger (and perhaps can still muster up some interest in their job performance).  Unfortunately some retail areas are retaining their “more experienced” workers who by now just don’t give a damn.  Yes, they are probably tired and overworked because the company won’t hire any more help but for those who are still standing behind the counters and cash registers, it would behoove you to try and keep us coming back or you too may be parked upon your sofa eating cheetos out of the bag.

If I am standing in a line, holding a precious piece of paper with a number on it (that happens to be #2) and the person before me is long gone…..could any of the three people on the other side of the formica please look up and notice me? Now I am not one to shout out ”hey you” to anyone to get their attention away from a computer screen or just a stack of inventory, I prefer to wait patiently drumming my fingers, jangling my keys or “coughing” until I can fix one with a steely gaze of contempt.  However, when the attention finally falls my way, would it be too hard to say “how can I help you?” rather than just an irritated “yes?” If I did not need the products in my hands, I would have replied “no” and left them on the counter. But I did need the stuff, so I smiled oh so nicely and made my request for yardage.

I wanted to ask a question on my way out about servicing a machine for which this location had a leased department that dealt with my product. A woman was staffing the location and working on a project but I knew she worked there (nametag gave it away) so I said “excuse me”. She did look up and I explained what I wanted to know.  I got a nice one word answer of “no” and she looked back to her project. I then had to ask if she knew anyone or anyplace that could (figured she would know her own product line…) and got a snippy and irritated reply that let me know she may work there, but she is clueless. Now I am the queen of snarky retorts which I have learned to keep in check so I walked away rather than up her one better. I wonder if all the unreleased responses are building up in my brain and causing some rather significant headaches lately. Sinus pressure is only a lame label for Snarky Suppression Syndrome.

Finally making it to the check-out line which has now become more of a cattle corral in most places, I waited again for the one of the two manned cash register stations to become available. The other 7 or so must have cooties because only the distance ones were occupied probably so the checkers could chat with each other while working on my transaction. The inevitable question of “did I find everything I needed” is always politely answered with “yes” out loud and a seething “no, I could not find customer service, a pleasant and helpful employee, or grrrrrrrrrr….”  And yes, I will try and have a nice day now that I am free of your establishment.

Off to lunch with a friend. Not a soul in the place which was nice so we could sit anyplace we wanted to for a quiet chat. However, just like at the movies, the only other group to show up has to sit in a booth right next to us. I guess the other 30 tables and booths have cooties too. They were loud and conducting business and one guy had probably just come from the gym….which did not make my lunch companion very happy as he was on her side of the table. A hostess would have made sure that two groups were seated a reasonable distance apart, but the women who had that job was parked at the bar and did not bother looking up, just called out “sit wherever”.  To her credit, she did do a good job once money was involved.

I could go on and on with such stories (as we all could) with the state of customer compassion being what it is today. To the credit of some companies however, you have a customer for life. I don’t care if you cost more or take longer, your people are friendly, respectful, helpful, courteous, kind, cheerful…..hmmmm maybe they are all Scouts?  I am the most loyal shopper ever when I have choices. When I don’t, and must use the only option out there, could we please limit the “Service with a Snarl” attitude? And yes, that is a painting title.

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