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What's Wrong with Customer Service?


I’m sure I’m not alone in noticing that today’s generation of young people has no idea what true customer service is all about. It’s up to us older folks to change their way of thinking.

Recently I have been confounded by the different meanings of customer service between 40-plus year olds and those aged 25 and under.

My first tale involves a young 20-something travel agent going to Spain for the first time. In the States, she uses her debit card, so why not in Spain? She called her bank twice to confirm that her card would be accepted during her trip. The bank said she’d have no problem using the card. Well, when she got to Spain she couldn’t use it. She had to borrow cash from everyone else on the trip. She was so upset she called her bank from Spain. The bank replied, “Oh, I’m sorry. You can’t use a debit card in Spain.”

Upon return to the States, the upset customer went to the bank to close account. The 20-something teller asked why the customer was closing the account. After hearing the explanation, the teller agreed with the customer that she should do business with another bank! Wait a minute, here’s two people involved with customer service — a travel agent and a bank teller — and they both shrug off the experience? An older customer surely would have asked to talk to a manager to discuss the problem. A Boomer teller would have tried to save the customer. But these two 20-somethings thought this was the way the situation should have been handled. They weren’t thinking about the next person who may have the same bad experience because no one wanted to get involved. The same misinformation will again be spread. Since when is a lost customer not considered a big deal? Is poor company performance expected in this day-and-age? Who’s leading these young people?

My neighbor, we’ll call him ‘Mr. Computer Head,’ ordered a game cartridge online from a local big-box electronics store. He didn’t pay for the game online, he only placed an order for quick pick-up at the store. The Sunday newspaper had a 10 percent discount coupon, which Mr. Computer Head clipped and brought to the store. At the pick-up counter he met ‘Ms. Store Policy.’ Ms. Policy stated that he couldn’t use the coupon because he ordered the product online. He explained that, yes, he did order on the Web, but he didn’t pay online. Ms. Policy replied, “You know you are wrong, do you want the manager?” Mr. Computer Head replied, “No, I don’t need the manager, I’ll just go onto the floor, pick the same game off the shelf, take it to the register with my coupon and get my 10 percent discount. And I will never spend another dime in any of your stores.” Ms. Policy gave the perfunctory “whatever,” and moved on to the next victim. Now the store keeps emailing Mr. Computer Head to come in and pick-up his game. Duh.

Now, that store has another lost customer, complete with 50 retellings of his shopping experience to all his friends. All courtesy of a 20-year old’s view of store policy.

Ah, then there’s me versus the phone store. Send the bail bondsmen. I needed to get a phone fixed. Like most auto parts distributors, I use a two-way radio/phone to communicate with delivery staff. Walking into the phone store, I am already out of place. I am missing the following options from my phone: surround sound, American Idol Quick Vote, a latte warmer, a rear projection movie viewing screen and storage for 23,000 of my favorite songs. Yes, I’m out of touch. Three trips and five hours invested to get the simple phone fixed and I get a difficult attitude and a map to a different store for the next time I need a phone repair. Customer service? Sorry, not spoken at this phone store.

Since when is it acceptable for the cashier to make me wait as she text messages someone from her cell phone? Of course, I’m just a customer. It is crazy for me to think I come before the friends of the cashier. Now that she is finished text messaging, she proceeds to show the phone tech the newest photos she took with her phone. Yes, Mr. Customer, you may wait while we discuss the photos. I feel all warm and fuzzy inside and can’t wait to tell all my business friends about the great disservice I just received.

You may just think this is considered normal customer service these days. But look around, these people are also working for you. We must train young professionals and explain what customer service really is. We old guys may take for granted that our younger associates know the true meaning. Our generation has very different expectations; your version of customer service may not match that of a 25 year old. If all of your customers are 25, maybe your store can get away with the updated version. If you customers are from all age groups, some training will be needed. Training — not an explanation of the store’s policy. Training on the proper way to serve your customers and training on what to expect as a customer.

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