There are too many of them.
An excess of moments when a store clerk sighs and eye rolls before reluctantly assisting a customer.
Of moments where a customer dares interrupt an employee’s day by needing anything, and is treated like dirt in return.
It’s exactly those moments – especially the rampant epidemic of such “service” - that make us think good, high-quality, (heck, even run of the mill basic customer service) is dead or at least terminally ill.
It makes me think of the time I needed to return a product to Costco. Normally, their service is outstanding. Which is impressive for a big box store. They’re known for their full money back, no questions asked return policy.
This time, I needed to return a bag of frozen vegetables. I had accidentally purchased one too many, not that they needed to know the reason. Still, I explained with an apologetic smile, and laid the bag on the counter to exchange it for a refund.
The clerk, perhaps an overworked crank who the years had apparently made bitter, looked down at the bag, then up at me through the top of his glasses with a condescending look of shock. “You realize we’re just going to throw it out.”
I said, “You realize it went from your freezer to my Costco cooler bag to my freezer then from my freezer back into your cooler bag and straight to you”
The clerk’s face contorted into a look I can barely describe. I can only tell you it made me feel like less than dirt. Like perhaps I had inadvertently performed something satanic right there in front of the service desk. I resisted the urge to search the floor for markings.
Still, I stood my ground and silently waited for his response.
His face tightened with resentment, as though I was taking money out of his personal pocket, and he reluctantly punched buttons to perform the return.
As I left the store, I resented the cloud of guilt the clerk had placed over me, and felt angry at his indignation. This was customer service? This was striving for satisfaction?
But in those moments of consumer dismay, when we feel like all of society doesn’t give a fleeting care to quality service, I remember one thing: the indignation about poor service is evidence service and the demand for it is still alive.
People still appreciate professionalism. And, to a degree, expect it. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be upset when they don’t get it. Right?
That gives me hope for a future of professionals who reject the entitlement-ridden laziness that currently pervades many a service industry (at all levels, but particularly at entry-level positions).
The outrage we feel when we receive arrogant medical care, rude treatment at the airport, or dismissive mechanical care, is a good indicator that we require more. And, if we require more, we believe customers deserve more, so we would tend to provide higher quality service.
Here’s something else I know about people and their expectations of service: they’ll travel farther, invest more time, and pay more to receive higher quality, professional care.
Whatever our industry, let’s not play to the lowest common denominator, getting by with as little effort as possible. Let’s raise the customer service industry bar by rewarding people with excellence.
I can tell you, it’s one of the most frequent things I hear time and again from clients – I chose you because of your professionalism, your ethics and your integrity. I recommended you due to that, and your outstanding service.
I go the "extra mile" for my clients because I love what I do and I care about my clients. I expect the same when I am the consumer and expect the same. People do care about service.
If we as professionals strive to serve better, and we as consumers strive to require better, the quality of service may well improve across many industries.
Just because the bar has lowered doesn’t mean we don’t need to continue striving to jump higher.