When customer service is just too good to be true
People love to complain about the customer service we get here in Australia. In general though, I think it’s pretty good. Especially after spending time overseas where attending to a customer sometimes looks like it ranks below flirting with co-workers or reading the paper.
But do you reckon customer service is now going one step too far. To me, Aussie businesses are going to the extremes of refined customer service when all we really want is the elusive middle ground.
On one hand there is the long-winded and irritating, small-talk fuelled barrage of over-customer service. The one where the kid on the other end of the phone asks for your whole life story.
The one where the waitress hovers around your table like a hawk, ready to interrupt conversation and pounce on the loose crumb or the glass of water only three quarters full. Or just to check you’re Ok… again.
The one where you’re woken up mid-way through the flight by Captain NotGoingToRemember just to be told how high you’re flying, how fast you’re flying, and what his dog had for breakfast.
The other day my wife Libby was on the phone sorting out some problem with our internet. Sitting next to her, I overheard the problem get sorted out nice and quickly. Great. Then she was answering all sorts of questions about the weather, about her upcoming travel plans…
“Thanks for your…”
“I’ve been there 3 times. Thanks for your…”
“No it’s wet season so it won’t… Thanks…”
“No it’s not a long flight. I have to go.”
She got off the phone frustrated: “why does every one think they have to become your best friend?”
Because that’s what the kid, sitting in a call centre in any possible corner of the earth, has been told makes good customer service. But the paradox is that the customer knows instantly when they’re getting real service, and when they’re being fed fake interest just for the sake of it. It’s customer service overdose.
When it happens once it’s okay. But when everyone seems to have been to the same customer service seminar or read the same book it can be infuriating.
And then there’s the other extreme… where it’s assumed we’d prefer to just talk to a computer. Where any human contact is eliminated altogether in the name of ‘efficiency’.
These days you can have a whole night out without talking to a single person. You can order your taxi, your dinner, your movie tickets - all without the inconvenience of opening your mouth. Excellent.
Good customer service has been one of the cornerstones of modern business. Every business drums into their staff its value. Whole teams are dedicated to providing the customer with the best experience possible, hoping it’ll entice them to return.
But with so much effort poured into meeting every possible need, what’s lost is a normal, rational approach to a very simple practice. And it can often turn us away. Like the girlfriend who never stops calling (not that I really know what that’s like), sometimes the service needs to just chill out.
We don’t want all these fancy and false ‘strategies’, we just want real people who get the job done. Nothing more, nothing less.
Are you finding this happening a lot to you? Do you find it frustrating or a welcome approach?
Of course I can’t complain about the customer service we get without commenting on the customer etiquette we often lack.
After discussing this issue on Sunrise we got a whole lot of feedback from people working in customer service who wanted to vent their frustrations about us customers.
Apparently we’ve developed a double standard where it’s fine to complain about the service we get, while being the rude and obnoxious customer that we cringe at on TV.
No matter how many times you hear the old ‘the customer is always right’ mantra, its not always true. And the fact you’re a ‘paying customer’ is not an excuse to forget simple manners and respect.
That sort of superiority doesn’t wash with me.
Which is why I love that some cafes are now banning customers from talking on their mobiles in the queue, fed up with having to wait for someone to finish their phone call before ordering.
In the end we are Australian, and things would be very boring if we had nothing at all to complain about. The confusing extremes of customer service will always cop its fair share of abuse. But I hope we don’t forget that a good transaction is a two way street.
Join Kochie’s blog at www.kochie.com.au.
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