Aug 11, 2008

Customer Service Not Fit For Man Nor Beast

At this month’s Troutdale “First Friday” event, the Mrs. And I met Becca, a former Starbucks Barista. I asked her, “What was it like working at Starbucks?” This is what she told us:

“People are grouchy not happy. They don’t smile. People are rude, in a hurry, they make a fuss. People have high expectations. You can’t believe the percentage of people who ask to have their drinks redone! It doesn’t taste right…it’s too hot.. It’s too cold. They complain the coffee is too bitter. It’s too strong. It’s too weak. “It doesn’t taste right”.

My favorite customer complaint Becca said was more common than you’d think:

My favorite drink isn’t on the menu anymore- I don’t know what to do!”

Crabby customers- that’s where Starbucks makes its money- it caters to crabby customers. Are you one of these crabby Starbucks customers? But crabbiness isn’t limited to customers. Check out this conversation I overheard recently while waiting in line at a local (Non starbucks) coffee shop:

A man in line in front of me said, “I’d like a Grande latte”. The coffee shop owner 's smile disappeared. He glared at the customer and said, “If you order coffee using the word “Grande” again, I’ll kick you out of my store! We have small, medium and large latte’s. Which would you like?”

What happened the golden rule- treat people like you would like to be treated?

Why are customers so angry? Why are business owners and their employees so angry?? Did they just get off an airliner that was stuck on the ground for 11 hours, with no water, broken toilets, and surly airline employees? Or did they just hang up in frustration after calling some customer service 800 number and spending two hours listening to a call center agent telling 150 ways they can’t help you. No, I can’t do that. No, you can’t talk to a supervisor. No, we never make mistakes; it must be your fault!

We had dinner with our kids the other day. They both work in a call center. We talked about our frustrations with poor customer service. Boy, they let us have it. Here is a small sample of what they said:

“Dad, you sit in your cubicle all day long, taking abuse. The customers are rude. They lie. They threaten. It’s not our fault they didn’t read their service agreement. They think they’ll get a different answer if they ask to talk to a supervisor. Well, they don’t get to talk to a supervisor because we transfer the calls to a co-worker. Our supervisor doesn’t take calls, they supervise us." My kid’s description of rude customers sounded familiar. I started my career with the phone company many years ago as a Bell System service rep.

Talk about your low expectations! Our conversation about poor call center customer service reminded me of an online article titled, “Is There A Future For Monkeys In Customer Service? Since both customer and call center employee expectations are so low, why not hire monkeys as call center agents? From the article:” The question of whether the monkey has a future in customer service may come down to one simple determination. How much worse could customer service get if corporations employed monkeys to provide it? Knowing that customer service had been delegated to monkeys, perhaps the average customer would align his service expectations with reality and experience less frustration than he does now."

What happened to the Golden Rule? You know what? I’d like to reverse the Golden Rule.. I’d like to treat the CEO’s of companies who have given me poor customer service a taste of what all of us have put up with lately. Let’s round up all the CEO’s of these customer-unfriendly companies! Are you with me? Let’s put them all on an airliner, and park that airliner out on a tarmac about 2 miles from the airport terminal. Let’s make them sit there for 11 hours, with no water, no food, no working toilets, and, best of all, no way to contact help! Are you with me! Let’s round ‘em up! Let's invite this Dell customer on the plane, while we're at it. (Caution-YouTube video is NSFW)

For a list of potential CEO's to invite on that airliner, check out MSN Money's "Customer Service Hall Of Shame".

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