The Death of Customer Service

Originally posted at Pro/Vision Coaching.

It had been a long day at the office. All day long, day after day, it was always the same routine; and it was starting to get harder to pick himself back up again. There was no real reason why it broke – sometimes that’s what things do; they break. Tom was just reaching a crisis point. The competition for his job was becoming a bear to deal with, and neither his age nor experience was counting as much as they used to. When his mp3 player busted, for Tom, that was the last straw.

Granted, Tom had only purchased the mp3 player a week ago, and there was no reason for the player to die; it just did. Relying on the success of his storied career, he planned to walk right back into the store and have this problem fixed. Unfortunately, that was not in the cards. At least he wasn’t alone.

Tom’s friends joined him at the mall, though I’m sure it was mainly because he promised to take them out to dinner afterwards. The fun did not last long, though, because as soon as they entered the store, they had to deal with Ray. Ray was the customer service manager at the technology store. His job was to make sure that every customer got served, but he also had to ensure no easy points got scored against the company. In other words, Ray—definitely no saint—had no intention of allowing a return.

“I’m sorry, Tom. Before I can let you return this, I need to ask you a few questions. Has your mp3 player been roughed up in any way? Have you ever dropped it in water? You do know that automatically voids the warranty. If we find in any way that you caused the breakage of this machine, you’ll have more luck making money off the old 49′er gold rush than you will getting a replacement device.”

His buddies did the best they could to protect him from the coming onslaught, but Tom scrambled out of their way and into danger head-on. Ray’s complete blockage of an innocent return was inexcusable. There was no reason for Ray to be colder than steel; it was as if he were trying to pack on the punishment for no reason. After forty-five minutes of convincing, Ray finally relented and gave up the discount; mainly because he finally succumbed to the pressure being laid on him by Tom’s buddies. Being gang-tackled by a bunch of large guys isn’t fun for anyone, especially Ray.

In the end, Tom won the day and returned his mp3 player. I would say he is enjoying his new iPod, but I’m not allowed to use real product names. There is a lesson to be learned in all of this (by the way, if you haven’t picked up on all the football references by now, there are multiple lessons to learn), and that lesson is the value of customer service. When did it become okay to lie to a customer while signing up for satellite television? Or to jet off after a contract signing before anyone could ask questions? It certainly seems as though the big companies today truly do not care about your business. It may only be $39.95 this month they receive, but the lifetime value of that $39.95 per month client can be in the hundreds of thousands after a few years if nurtured properly (by way of longer-term contract, referrals, etc…).

The problem is that nobody cares anymore. What reason did Ray have to actually care about Tom’s problem? What motivation do the “Ray’s” in the world have for actually caring for the client experience? Are they receiving extra rewards for their level of “niceness”? Are they being compensated off the long-term value of the clients with whom they work? No. This is why customer service is dead. It wasn’t eaten by a lion.

If a customer service employee comes to work after having a bad start to their day, there is nothing to keep them from passing that on to other people; no motivation to listen to another complaining customer, or to take seriously an issue that they’ve heard about by thirty other people in the last hour. That is, unless the owner of that business cares – and cares enough to ensure that no bad days are allowed in the office – at least by way of ensuring that each employee is directly rewarded for their client care record. Maybe then customer service can be revived. Though I’m not holding my breath, miracles do happen. A few weeks ago a cowboy named Roger fulfilled every American male’s dream by making one simple decision.

Buccaneer.

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