Why Customer Service Is So Bad

If I were King I’d make a rule that whenever Customer Service was written out it would say Customer SERVICE. That rule would also require that when spoken special emphasis would have to be given to the word SERVICE. Maybe they would have to say SERVICE louder or slowly so they would have an extra millisecond to realize what the word SERVICE actually means. 

 

That assumes of course that you could get them to utter the word service. 

 

This post is admittedly more of a rant against the ghastly customer service that has been in the news lately but seriously folks a rant seems to be required. It’s required because I know where at least part of that horrific service is coming from. 

 

Sadly it’s coming from huckster training organizations offering terrible Customer Service training. I see brochures and emails cross my desk constantly offering the latest skills in Handling Customers, on how to “convince your customers they are satisfied.” On how to remove the “baggage” of customer interactions. (by the way the only real way to convince your customers that they are satisfied is to satisfy them)

 

The tone and word choices of these so called training programs are just atrocious. I absolutely guarantee that if you were to put your people through these programs your customers would notice a difference and that difference will cause them to  become someone else’s customer as soon as they possibly can.

 

These so called training organizations go to great lengths to avoid using the word SERVICE after the word customer. They strain to come up with any word that can possibly be substituted for that dreaded word which might indicate that the person who PAID YOU MONEY for your product or service is in fact be a very important person. It all seems to be an attempt to dehumanize the customer so dragging them off your damn plane will seem perfectly okay.

 

Congratulations United, it worked! You received exactly the outcome that you trained and rewarded your people to provide. Sadly, so did your customer. (It should be noted here that United didn’t drag a human being off the plane, they removed a randomly selected seat number. The whole process was completely dehumanized. Or so they thought.)

 

These programs offer the latest “tricks” for dealing with customers. Well guess what? There are no new tricks because there are no old tricks. If you’re tricking your customer then you’re not SERVING them. Oh and by the way, you don’t “deal” with customers either, you help them, you solve their problems, you SERVE them. 

 

Any customer service training that doesn’t focus plainly and transparently on SERVING the customer is not worthy to be called Customer SERVICE training. When you see training companies offering junk called “Engineering Customer Experiences,” “Reducing Customer Dissatisfaction,” Low Effort Customer Experiences” or any other buzzword loaded titles, RUN. 

 

Authentic Customer SERVICE involves truly caring about the customer. It means doing whatever is required to make the situation right for them…and the customer determines what is right. When your customer determines that you have a genuine interest in solving their issue they very very seldom have unreasonable demands. Customers get unreasonable when they determine you are trying to “engineer” their situation, when you are trying to trick them into thinking you’re saying yes when you’re saying no. When your customer figures out you really don’t care and are just trying to make them go away they can get “unreasonable” in a hurry. 

 

Your poor SERVICE caused that, not the customer.

 

At the core of horrible customer service is this simple fact. Businesses have forgotten that whatever business they are in they are in the people business first. United Airlines might fly planes but they are in the people business. Cable companies might provide entertainment but that entertainment is created for people. Cable companies have forgotten that they are in the people business. Cell phone companies provide cellular service to people, they too are in the people business. I could go on and on, every business is in the people business in one way or another. 

 

If you don’t enjoy interacting with your fellow human beings, in any circumstance, then don’t go into business. 

 

Customers are people and you don’t handle, deal with, trick, fool, ignore, manipulate, or otherwise abuse people. If you’re in business you SERVE them. 

 

SERVING your customers does not make you a servant, it is not, or should not be, beneath anyone in business. Caring for your customers is not a weakness, it is in fact a tremendous strength. 


We need to put the SERVICE back in customer service. It’s people who put the SERVICE in Customer Service; train your people in basic human relations principles and leave the tricks behind.

2 thoughts on “Why Customer Service Is So Bad

  1. michaelb1603 says:

    I agree with your comments associated with poor training programs and that businesses should be in the people business first. The problem, like most of the emerging issues of this type, are deeply aliegned with the new complexities of our lives. More data and information, less time to examine it and weed out unnecessary crap. A business sector consumed with quarterly profits rather than sustainable long-term outcomes. The poor way businesses are treating their employees lessening employee commitment to the business or the customer. Reliance on technology to avoid personal contact and enhance productivity that is good with the bean counters, but not customer relations. And there is more, but I don’t want one to view these comments as anti-business. Years ago it was famously said we needed a balance between high tech and high touch. That concept has been lost by too many businesses viewing maximizing shareholder value over community responsibility and human touch. The lack of investment in customer service is a troubling sign of some form of greed. The need to rebalance in this ever more interdependent world is overdue. I am not holding my breath. It will take more than better customer service training programs. It will require a change in attitude and commitment to human touch in what is a much more selfish climate devoted only to dollars instead of people.

    • Geez, I wish I didn’t agree with pretty much everything you said. It is a sad state of affairs that much is certain. I’m not sure what the total solution is either but the more businesses see people as a number the less likely they are to offer true Customer SERVICE.

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