Tuesday 17 September 2013

Are you being served...your arse?

Sell animal onesies, in this store? Captain Peacock was outraged.

Ever walked into a retailer and the shop assistant is so rude you end up walking out empty handed? Or sat in a restaurant for half an hour before you've even been offered menus or water? Today I'm talking about that hairy old chestnut called customer service. Why? Because the older I get the more I can't believe how bad businesses are at it and there really is no excuse.

Haven't people learnt by now? With all the modern advances in technology, customer service should have improved in leaps and bounds over the last few decades, yet there are companies still failing dismally at it and most of the time it's individual staff members who are letting down the team.

Customer service in my opinion is completely straight forward. Just imagine yourself in the customer's shoes - What things would I like? How would I like to be treated? - and voila! It's tip tango time or repeat business. But for the bored twenty-something on the end of the phone or handing out your food, what do they care about your experience? They're thinking about the last text they got or what they're doing on the weekend. And it's not just the young ones either, plenty of older people are also terrible at customer service.

There have been so many instances recently where I've tried to book restaurants or beauty appointments and ended up having to leave messages only to have the place not call me back. Do these people actually want to make money? I don't understand how they can expect to run a business like that. Sure, maybe they're so run off their feet (and up their own arses) that they don't need my coins, but sooner or later that disregard will no doubt bite them in the bum.

I swear my husband and I are magnets to bad customer service, particularly when it comes to the hospitality industry. Whenever we go out to a restaurant they always forget to take our order, or get a dish wrong, or overcharge us on the bill. We're so used to it now we actually find it a bit amusing. One incident we didn't find that funny though was the time we rocked into a bar for a quick cocktail before a dinner reservation. When the drinks still hadn't arrived after about 30 minutes (even though the bar was almost empty), we looked over to see the bartender giving staff members a cocktail lesson with our drinks - including letting them take a sip from our glasses so they could taste test it. Ok, so they used straws, but still not cool!

I know I sound like a big fat whinger, but I know a thing or two about customer service, having been around the traps myself as a check-out chick and bartender (to name a few of my past jobs). So I  know good customer service when I see it, and when it is done right... oooh, makes you go tingly in all the right places. Sometimes it's a cafe waiter who goes the extra mile to make sure the kids are as happy as possible so you can really enjoy your meal, or an unlikely source such as the friendly phone insurance salesperson who points out how you can save money on your policies - and does it really quickly with no fuss, and so you can actually understand what the hell is going on.

I understand it's human nature for errors to occur from time to time, and some bad service is not intentional. The important thing is whether or not the business acknowledges and rectifies it though. I recently went for a much needed massage (lopsided body from permanently carrying a one year-old on my hip). And when I say 'much needed' I really mean it, because it was when I was smack bang in the middle of a stupid food elimination diet where I couldn't eat or drink hardly anything, so I was particularly cranky and desperate for some TLC. I had been looking forward to it all week and arranged for my husband to be home so once the kids were in bed I could hop off for an hour of supreme relaxation. When I got there though, the place was shutting up and the woman on duty had no record of my booking (which had been done online).

I was devastated. I actually cried. Yep, that's right, real tears. The woman was very apologetic (which was nice but didn't really help me), however it was in the morning when they really came through with the goods. They rang to apologise again and booked me in for another appointment, free of charge. So basically, they admitted their mistake and immediately offered some compensation to make up for it. As a result, instead of forever boycotting this massage joint, I still think highly of them and will continue to visit them when required and refer them to others. Honest, caring and classy - that's how it's done.

The reason I think a lot of places get away with poor customer service is because most people either don't feel comfortable complaining; can't be bothered; or don't have the opportunity to - and so heaps of companies are never pulled up on their shortcomings. I personally hate complaining (and it's not just because I don't like spit in my food!) - I don't want to appear rude for some reason, which is bizarre when you think about the hard earned cash you're handing over yet don't always get the product or experience you're after.

I prefer to make sure I take the time to compliment great service when I see it - could be letting the cafe owner know their waitress was amazing and leaving a nice tip; or telling your dentist you've referred him to a friend because you love the way he remembers details about your kids; or saying a special thank you to the incredibly helpful telco phone assistant at the end of the call (mmm maybe not, although I'm sure there are some good ones out there somewhere!). People love being told they've done a great job, and it often makes them want to continue giving the best service possible - so in a roundabout way, I like to think the praise creates a happier and better customer service community out there.

But what about all the schmucks who don't give a damn? Well I've decided I am now going to take the time to give negative feedback when it's due. I'm going to do that phone or online survey after dealing with a nightmare telco or bank. I'm going to fill in that feedback form at restaurants and hair salons. And I'm going to grow some balls and speak up when something is really out of line. Because there's a good chance that a business owner may not know their staff member is slipping up, and if it were my company, I'd definitely want to know. And if after that they still don't care? Well, I'm simply not going to go there anymore or use that provider, because I don't like being served my own arse. Not sure I'm going to be sending the steak back just yet though...

 What's the worst customer service you've ever experienced?

photo credit: Larry He's So Fine via photopin cc


  1. Customer service is pretty shocking in a lot of places! I find the worst offenders can be some resturaunts where you wait forever to get your food and once you are finished your food you wait forever for them to clear the table and get you the bill!

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  2. And then the bill is completely wrong!


Thanks for sharing your two cents with One Woman Circus!