At one time, I was in banking. Banking is, of course, a customer service field. You get this concept drilled into your head constantly by the higher-ups. Through endless customer service seminars, training sessions, videos, meetings, etc, bank staff are reminded constantly that the sole purpose of their existence is to make the customer happy.
This gets worse the higher up the ladder you go. I was in loans when I left, with whispers about being elevated to lower management. It was expected I represent the bank 24-7. One of my seniors even told me I should give my clients my personal cell number as well as the number for the branch-assigned cell I was given so they'd always be able to reach me, no matter what.
I never did that though. That branch cell stayed turned off and locked in my desk drawer at the end of every workday. I got really pissed at one of my coworkers for giving out my personal cell (without my permission) to an insistent customer we were both working with. Why? Because, as I said, banking is a customer service field. You were expected to deal with customers on a daily basis. As for a lower management position, AW HELL NO!!! I dreaded the idea of being promoted any higher. That meant being expected to deal more closely with more customers.
I was good at playing the game and making customers feel comfortable, but there were actually only a few of them I could stand. And it wasn't just because I'm not a people person. I realized the problem I had with customers was that most customers know we were trained to kiss their asses for fear that they take their business elsewhere. And, naturally, they took advantage of it.
They became whiny babies who cussed and complained about every inconvenience.
"Why wasn't there a coffee machine?" - We had one. Customers abused it and people were walking in off the street, making coffee and leaving without doing a single transaction. DAILY!
"You don't remember my name? I'm your customer! This is poor customer service!" - We spoke on the phone... Once... Two months ago!
"Why is there a chain on the pen? Don't banks make enough money to be able to lose a pen or two?" - Yes, but you'd still bitch when we didn't have a pen for you to sign with because the person just before you stole it.
"You didn't smile and say the pre-approved greeting! Where's your supervisor?!" - He's the angry looking one over there with a cell phone in each ear and the line of people waiting to speak to him. He won't do any of that shit either.
"These interest rates are too high!" - Ah! Thank you for actually bitching about something loan related. Sorry, though. Whoever sets those works in a shiny ivory tower and can't hear you or me all the way down here.
You get the idea. Customers get caught up in the idea that those in customer service have to put up with their crap and use them to boost their own sense of superiority.
I'd almost forgotten about all this until two incidents I witnessed recently.
The first I'll talk about is actually the second one and it was a few weeks ago. I was in a bakery. I had just walked in and there was this guy - a gas station attendant, by the uniform - pacing, ranting and yelling at the girls behind the counter. He demanded his money back and left. Curiosity got the better of me and I asked one of the girls what that was all about.
"He asked for coffee. He got angry when we asked if he wanted milk and sugar. He thought we should know."
I heard the staff saying that customer was always carrying on like that when he came in. He had a problem with everything they did and almost never bought anything. Just came in, found an excuse to yell at them and leave. Yes, I get that he was a regular, but is screaming at them at the top of your lungs the best way to make sure they remember how you like your coffee the next time? If I had to guess, I'd say the only real reason you went in there was just so you could unload on them.
Then there was the other incident about a month before that. I was in a line in KFC. There was a guy over at the condiment dispenser counter shouting at any staff member who approached him. Why? There wasn't any ketchup at the counter. Despite reassurances that he only had to wait a few minutes for someone to get a fresh supply from the storeroom, he wasn't satisfied. The staff were inefficient and KFC, being such a large franchise, should have them better trained so condiments would be topped up regularly. This was completely unacceptable, as far as he was concerned.
The man was livid and refused to lower his voice until the uniformed police officer in front of me got tired of listening to him. The officer did probably the best thing I've ever seen anyone do for customer service staff in that type of situation. He calmly walked over to the irate customer.
Cop: Sir. Is that necessary? They are bringing the ketchup.
Customer: I'm a customer. I have rights. They're supposed to be more efficient and professional.
Cop: Sir, they're human. And despite your carrying on, every single one of them has been courteous and patient with you. That shows a level of professionalism beyond what most would show you.
Customer: But... I'm the customer...
Cop: Sir. These people are overworked and underpaid and this a very busy branch. These things happen and you are not making there job any easier. I suggest if you don't like the service here, you can just leave and go somewhere else.
Customer: I... I'm sorry, officer.
There was silence after that. Most nodded in agreement. A few in the lines even commented their approval at the officer's remarks. The customer remained silent after that until the ketchup came. Then he thanked the staff member who brought it, dressed his meal and left.
I know there are lax and lazy people out there in every field, customer service is no exception. I also know that sometimes the only way to improve things is to complain and bring attention to the flaws. But, when we are complaining, is it to right an obvious wrong? Or is that we've gotten too comfortable taking advantage of a system that's set up in our favor?
There are things that should be fixed, but maybe, if there are little things about a situation, business or person that bother us to the point that we have to scream at someone, it's best to stop complaining about those imperfections and take our business someplace else...
I'm sure the other place got it totally right.