Lately, it seems I've faced more customer service challenges than ever. In fact, I was having this "customer service" conversation with my optometrist just days ago. He, I discovered, has a similar philosophy about customer service practices and expectations. Apparently, treating consumers as valuable people is no longer the norm. Customer service is such a premium these days.
There are ways to address what I find unacceptable when I am spending my money with those who hold themselves out as commodity or service providers. I do realize we all have not-so-good days and are not always "on our game" but there is a line that should never be crossed. In the event I have simply encountered one of those rare occasions, I give the merchant the benefit of the doubt and an opportunity to make amends. Perhaps, my experiences could help you.
While the head honchos are not personally delivering the poor service, they are responsible for their representatives and agents. I, however, start on the lower level of accountability and work my way up the ladder, as needed. I try to reason with the associate who was tending to my consumer matter. If the associate addresses my concern with a good-faith effort to deliver customer satisfaction, I'm done. The matter goes no further. If my issue is disregarded, I am dismissed as though my issue is not a concern to the merchant or I am spoken to in a manner less than the respect with which any human should be spoken, I move up the ladder. "I'd like to speak to your manager, please," are my next words.
Once I'm speaking with the highest level of management available, I repeat my complaint and request for the service I expect under the circumstances. Most situations are resolved here. Your particular set of facts will determine what options are deemed most appropriate when seeking a resolution to a customer service problem. When, however, a manager or supervisor does not care to listen to a customer with courtesy and respect, frankly, it is time to do business differently. Consider, first, that the wrong person could be in that particular managerial position so I'm, usually, not yet ready to throw in the towel with the particular service provider or merchant. If management lacks the interest in addressing a consumer's concerns, it's time to climb the corporate ladder. Yes, I will and have been known to climb all the way to the top to get results.
While I am not a fan of "reality shows," I do know of Undercover Boss. The upper echelon does not always know what the lower echelon is doing. I believe in describing my experience and giving the Boss a chance to respond. If the Boss simply echoes or supports the attitude and conduct that led me to the top, my money and I walk for good.
Of course, there are a number of variances, which will create exclusions. Each experience should be scrutinized carefully and maturely to determine whether any course of action should be taken at all. Let's be clear. Every occasion of poor customer service does not warrant a responding course of conduct. If we take on every poor customer service experience, doing so would be a full-time job. A fair and reasonable assessment of the big picture should help you determine whether the situation rises to the level of seeking upper management redress.
Also, there are many relationships that do not offer customers a level playing field. Consider, for example, public utilities. The efforts to address certain unacceptable poor customer service issues with such entities are not as simple as described above. There are avenues for addressing rather serious, unacceptable practices. Perhaps, we will visit those in a future post. For now, let's just trust karma to handle these (and, frankly, all matters) in its own way and its own time.
There are a few important thoughts I must leave with you. Going the extra mile does not suggest we should expect others to bow to our every need. It, further, does not mean consumers should always get their way. Please, understand me. When I have an issue, it could be as simple as questioning a transaction, an incredibly rude associate or any other experience which is not appropriate in the business relationship. What consumers should expect is a standard of service, which is professional, competent and courteous. Respect, I believe, is implied in "professional."
Honestly, the manner in which people treat one another should always be respectful. Maybe, this is really where we should start. If we could understand what we do is a reflection of either respect or lack of respect for self, we just might gain a fresh perspective on relating to others. Whether we are paid minimum wage or astronomical salaries, we are not defined by the dollar we take home in a paycheck. At the end of the day, we are always presenting what is on the inside and we are telling every other person exactly what we think of ourselves by our treatment of him or her.
I don't know about you but I am not the dollar that society, somehow, assigns me through payroll. I am an awesome being and I treat others accordingly, and I will not allow anyone to reciprocate anything less.
Delivering the best of your self is going the extra mile!