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Worthless Customer Service Reps and the Companies Who Employ Them

April 7, 2010

by Jerry Kennedy, Motivation 101 blog    April, 2010

I’m increasingly disturbed…OK, appalled would be a better word…by an attitude I’m seeing crop up more and more frequently. I’m kind of a fanatic about customer service. As a result, when I encounter what I perceive to be bad customer service, I’m vocal about it.

What concerns me is the growing number of people who react negatively when I point out bad customer service. Many of them say things that basically amount to “that’s what the stupid customers get for being so stupid and stupidly calling with their stupid complaints!”

More and more, people in general (and customer service reps in particular) are defending the right of businesses to provide bad service. The icing on the cake was an article I came across via Dan Waldschmidt’s blog about Dell charging a monthly fee for customer service. Have a look at the article here, and pay special attention to the first dozen or so comments. You’ll read things like this:

“I whole-heartedly agree that most calls to tech support should be charged a service fee. Especially if the caller is someone who is too stupid to actually read the instruction book or has absolutely no common sense. I mean, we are here on the phone trying to help them fix a problem that is usually created by the customer in the first place. Should we really have to waste our time fixing your mistakes for minimum wage with you complaining in our ear and saying how crappy support is while we can still hear you?”

When I read that the first time, I saw red. I started shouting at my computer at the top of my voice. My wife even took note of it, saying that I sounded like I had a lot of anger about something. She was right, and part of my frustration is that more people aren’t righteously indignant over the situation.

In one way, we’re getting exactly what we deserve. For far too long, we’ve been tolerating the decline of customer service, and that’s led to a generation of people who think that all the fuss over expecting good customer service is just an “old people thing”. It’s a problem that I refuse to contribute to; I don’t, under any circumstances, tolerate bad service. I’m going to continue to raise a fuss, and I hope you’ll join me.

In that spirit, I’ve composed the following Open Letter to Worthless Customer Service Reps and the Companies Who Employ Them. Feel free to copy it and insert the names of the offending parties, then send it to the person in the company who can do something about it! As tempting as it is, there’s absolutely no sense in getting into a debate with the person providing the poor service; if they cared at all, they would be giving you good service. Talk to the boss, and talk with your dollars. It might cost a little more or be inconvenient, but are you really enjoying the less expensive/more convenient alternative? I didn’t think so. Here’s the letter:

“Dear _______________,

I think it’s time we had a little “come to Jesus” meeting about the level of service you provide to me, your Lord and Master. Yes, you read that right: I am your King. In case you’ve forgotten our arrangement, let me remind you: I’m the customer, which makes me the Boss. As such, I expect the following from you in all future interactions:

1. Your respect. In return, I promise to treat you with respect…but you have to go first. When I approach you with a complaint, I don’t want to hear your sighs of frustration. I don’t want to see your eyes rolling back. I don’t want to be addressed in a tone that clearly conveys (whether you’re aware of it or not) that you think I’m an idiot. Even if you think that I’m to blame for the problem I’m having, I want you to take ownership of the problem and FIX IT!
2. Your gratitude. Yes, that’s right: I want you to say “Thank you,” and I want you to mean it. After all, if it weren’t for me you wouldn’t have a job! Think about that the next time you take my order or deliver my product or hand me my change. Make eye contact, smile, and say a hearty “Thanks!” We’ll both feel better about the interaction, and I might even mention it to a few of my friends.
3. Your smile. Even if you’re having a bad day, fake it for me. Like it or not, your attitude is written all over your face, and part of my selection criteria for the people I choose to do business with is friendliness. You can convey that friendliness with your facial expression…or not. It’s your choice, and it’s mine to come back to your business…or not.
4. Your deference. I know it’s fallen out of fashion of late, but there used to be a very popular phrase that said “The customer is always right.” Let’s get back to that arrangement, shall we? I’d really appreciate it. And if I’m really not right, let’s just pretend that I am and figure out a way to make me happy, OK? Thanks.
5. Your professionalism. If you make a promise to have something fixed for me by a certain date, make a habit out of keeping that promise. I understand that things can sometimes come up that keep you from fulfilling your commitment to me, but that’s really not my problem. Do your best to get it done anyway.
6. Your honesty. If you quote me a price, stick by it unless I change something. And make sure that the price you quote includes providing me with great customer service after the sale. Don’t give me a low price to get me to buy your stuff, then try to charge me more when something goes wrong. If I have a problem, I want to be able to call you without getting my credit card out of my wallet. That’s part of our deal.
7. Your enthusiasm. When I come in the door of your business, please look up from what you’re doing and acknowledge my presence. I’m there to spend money on something I want or need, not to be ignored. If I want to be ignored, I’ll go to the DMV. Acknowledge me, look happy to see me, greet me like I’m the one writing your pay check…because I am!

If you’ll agree to these rules of engagement, I will continue to frequent your establishment and trade my dollars for your product or service. Should you decide to ignore this request, however, I’ll have no choice but to take my dollars elsewhere to get the products and service I need.

Oh, you didn’t know I could do that? You weren’t aware that at least ten other establishments in our neighborhood do exactly what you do? And that at least one or two of them would be happy to comply with my list of demands? That’s too bad; you really should get out more. No worries though: you’ll have plenty of time to go check them out when all your customers are gone.

Your (Former?) Customer”

Let’s declare the rest of April “Customer Appreciation Month” and, rather than think of this as a battle against bad customer service, let’s make it a movement for good customer service. Use the letter above (or something similar) to state your intention to receive excellent customer service at the establishments you frequent from this point forward, forever. Put the businesses you buy from on notice that you aren’t going to tolerate bad customer service any longer. Vote with your dollars. Be willing to sacrifice a little convenience to make your point. Because if we don’t do it now, we’ll continue to get exactly what we’re asking for.

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