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Is Bad Customer Service Actually Our Fault?

Is bad customer service actually our fault?

My daughter and I were baking a cake together at my birthday and an ad for the supermarket where she works came on the radio; fresh produce, great meats, sales for a month, not a week and great customer service. She smirked and I asked her about it. She said, ‘Customer service means I have to be nice to you even if you’re being a jerk to me.” She used a significantly stronger ‘weekend word.’ It got me thinking…..

How much of our perceived ‘poor customer’ service is actually our own fault?

If you train with me, you’ll go through an experiential exercise that has you envisioning someone near and dear to your heart, then role-play some interactions. How do you treat them if they are the customer? How do you treat them when you are the customer? Probably pretty well, for if you don’t, well, let’s just hope you have a comfortable sofa. But seriously, if you are a jerk to whomever you engage at your service provider, no matter what happens, you have ruined the experience – both for you and for the other person on the other side of the phone, counter, e-mail, chat,, etc.

Note I said person. Customer Service representatives are people, just like you and me. They have feelings, goals, ambitions, and problems. They are also in customer service so you can imagine during their work days, they will encounter nice, easy situations as well as challenging, dicey problems to solve. They will talk to grumpy old men and sweet old ladies, people who are un-informed or ill-informed, rushed and harried moms and dads and you and me. How we treat these service providers will certainly affect the resolution, or….. lack of resolution.

Even when I am angry about an issue, I remember very specifically and very consciously that the person on the phone/email/chat is not the person who made the policy, so I spare them my wrath. Do you do the same? Do you separate your anger from the person charged with helping you resolve it? Customer Service Representatives will help you no matter what. I will suggest that if you direct your anger at the right place; the policy, the error, the mistake and not at them, you will have a far better experience and resolution. People in customer service want to help – that’s why they are in customer service. Don’t ruin it for them (and yourself) by acting out against them. It’s similar to people who blow an air horn into the phone when a telemarketer calls (I’ve heard people do this?). What a cruel thing to do – they are just doing their job, give them a break!

The adage, ‘You attract more bees with honey than vinegar,’ comes to mind here. If you are pleasant and understanding of what they are saying, you are more likely to encounter someone who will make that extra effort to serve you and solve whatever problem prompted your call. But….

Act like the blankety-blank my daughter describes and guess what? You’ll get the bare minimum. What would you do? You’re just doing your job, explaining the company policy and procedure to a person who is behaving like a moron; you could do more to help them but our natural inclination is to let them reap what they sew. Karma anyone? Besides, people who act like that won’t appreciate your extra effort anyway, why bother?

As a former front-line CSR I understand the thinking and it is perfectly rational and human:

“I’ll save my best work for the best customer; the one who has a completely ridiculous problem, should be chewing my head off but isn’t. She is rational even while angry, polite and kind to me; sure, I’ll call in a favor from shipping and get her order fixed right now. She has every right to be nasty to me but she isn’t. Solving complex for nice people – I LOVE these calls….”

My mom was champ at being treated badly because she was the caller on a rampage. Everyone was a moron, everyone was incompetent, everyone was out to get her. Guess what; she always had a hard time with customer service. Hmmm….

The saying goes that ‘We train others how to treat us.’ Act like a nitwit and get treated like a nitwit. Act like a decent person and get treated as such.

Think about this the next time you are frustrated and angry and disgusted at a company but at the same time, need someone’s help. They can help you, or they can thrill you. You can control how the exchange goes. So…

Break out the honey jar!