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Anyone Miss Good Old-Fashioned Customer Service?

October 21st, 2008 · 1 Comment

I just returned to my desk in an office building on Broadway in NYC and got a sad but stark reminder of the state of customer service in today’s business climate as I rode the elevator up to my floor.  Standing in front of me were two twenty-something waif-thin glam girls — you know the type…professional fashionistas that care little about those who occupy the space around them except for expecting those schleps to feel blessed to be in their company.  I call them Twinkies…sweet, airey and fake but also quite fascinating.

  • Twinkie 1: “Oh my God, I am SO going to score an invitation to that party…even if I have to bribe the boss to take me.”
  • Twinkie 2: “You’re SO bad (laughing). Speaking of bad, I was SO bad before we left the office earlier.”
  • Twinkie 1: “DO tell” (giggling and tugging on Twinkie 2’s sweater).
  • Twinkie 2: (hardly waiting for Twinkie 1’s invitation to proceed) “WELL, I got this call from a client and he asked to speak with either the office manager or the owner (giggling)…”
  • Twinkie 1: (giggling and browsing her email on her Blackberry)
  • Twinkie 2: “So I said to him, ‘Well sir, which one woud you like to speak with?  The office manager or the owner?'” (self-satisfied giggling). She continues, “and he says again, ‘either — the office manager OR the owner will be fine.'”
  • Twinkie 1: “Huh?” (barely looking up from her Blackberry but giggling along with Twinkie 2).
  • Twinkie 2: “So I said to him again, ‘WHICH ONE would you like to speak with?  The office manager or the owner?'” (getting excited and giggling in anticipation of the story’s climactic conclusion)…
  • Twinkie 1: “Yes?” (on the edge of catching her colleague’s excitement)
  • Twinkie 2: “And he says, ‘I suppose the office manager’…so I then said, ‘Sorry sir, she’s not here right now’ and then immediately hung up on him!” (proud laughter as they exited the elevator)

I just shook my head and turned to the guy next to me and stated very matter-of-factly, “You just can’t make this shit up.”

When did businesses stop valuing customers and customer service? 

Why do businesses hire and then tollerate customer-facing employees with poor attitudes and limited social skills?

Why don’t businesses spend more time, money and attention on properly training customer service representatives? 

More importantly, why do we, THE CUSTOMERS, tolerate businesses that repeatedly treat us as if we should be grateful for the razor-thin customer service charity they provide?  Why do we accept poor communication skills, bad attitudes and endless hold times in voicemail hell?  Why do our politicians make if far too easy (and profitable) for businesses to farm out customer service to foreign countries who provide reps that barely speak the English language? And finally, why have we allowed businesses to view customer service as nothing more than an expense on their balance sheet?  Makes me want to run out and rent that old movie Network and join Howard Beale’s famous chorus: ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’

By the way, I don’t know the name of the company they work for or the business their company is in but I hope it is not any of the companies I own stock in. 

What I DO know, however, is that when a company representative (whether high or low on the company’s employment org chart) treats me the way Twinkie 2 treated her employer’s client, I lose several degrees of respect for that company and begin to look for alternative companies who appreciate me. 

In this brave new world of social media, consumer reviews and customer choice, all of the positive efforts and money a company puts into marketing to me, connecting with me through traditional and/or social media and/or sponsoring charities or supporting causes can instantly crash and burn when the parts are not in sych with the whole.  If a company is to be authentic and REALLY cares about their customers, then all of their efforts MUST be in synch…oh, and hiring managers should be put on strict Twinkie-free diets!  😉


Tags: Authenticity · Public Relations and Communications · Rants · Social Media

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 SusanMC // Oct 21, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Ed – twinkes are hired because “THE LOOK GOOD” not because they are good. It’s a sad commentary on those who do the hiring. I wish you did know the company, so we could all not do business with them. As always, great post and spot on.

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