Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Customer service

The world is full over over entitled jackholes*. I am not referring solely to the generation of 4G cloud pampered kids; I am referring to the populace in general. I suppose that is a little unfair considering I do not have vast dealings with non Americans, so I will amend my statement to only include my fellow Americans as over entitled insufferable jackholes.

Nothing makes this more apparent than the holidays. We enter the season of love, giving, togetherness, peace, joy, cookies, and consumerism and discover that the vast majority of people have absolutely no idea how to behave like a decent human being. All you have to do is spend 20 minutes in any busy retail environment to see multiple painful examples of this reality.

This has been the week of my car having very expensive tire related issues. I have had to deal with mechanics who may or may not have been screwing me over and then had to add onto that very large bill two brand new tires. I was cranky for multiple reasons, but I wasn't taking it out on the nice young man at the tire shop. He gave me a total that was less than what I expected, said it would be at least two hours, and all I did was sigh, smile, pay, and quietly take my seat.

I did this because I always try and be a decent human when dealing with people in a customer service capacity. It is not this kids fault that there were 15 cars ahead of me at 4pm on a Monday. It isn't his fault what happened with my mechanic. It isn't his fault that my car decided to have these problems a week and a half before Christmas. I wasn't going to take out my frustration on him because that would just be wrong.

So I sat there for two hours (without a book, which again was no ones fault but my own), and like the other 10 people sitting there kept to myself and just accepted that I was losing out a chunk of my evening. Sadly there were several shining examples of what is wrong with this world.

There was a wealthy 19 year old girl that called her father to yell at the poor guy at the counter because she had driven her car around on low pressure and ruined her tire. There was the man who cancelled and order and read the guy at the counter the riot act because they had taken too long in shipping his tires. They apparently shipped the day after he ordered but got diverted due to the ice storm, to which he said wasn't his problem and they should have gotten his tires there despite the roads being shut down.

The one that really was the winner of the night was the woman who walked in about 5 minutes after they closed. This is the sort of tire shop that 'closes' at 6 so that they can finish working at a decent hour. Normally they lock the doors at 6 so that they don't have any new customers come in. Unfortunately the guys were all handling the last couple of people who had come in just before 6 and they hadn't made it to the door yet.

This woman comes rushing in, looks around, notices they are all busy, and leaves. I watched her hop in her car and then go to find a parking spot. There were at this point 19 cars still waiting to be serviced, so the lot was pretty well full (it is a very small lot). About a minute after she walked out the young man came over and locked the door. Another minute or two passed before the woman showed up again to find the door locked.

She absolutely lost her shit. I watched as she yanked and rattled at the door, waved her fists angrily, and shouted what I assume were not nice things. The young man had to excuse himself from the customer he was helping to go open the door for this woman. As soon as the door was open she began shouting at this young man.

Woman: I was in here before you locked the doors! I went to park and I come back and you lock me out?!

Young man: I am sorry I never saw you walk in, I have been out front the whole time.

Woman (still shouting): I was in here. I had to go and park but you have no parking.

YM: Yes mam we have 19 cars waiting to be serviced, they are taking up most of the spaces.

Woman: Well I had to park all the way at the end because you have no spaces up front for me.

YM: Yes mam, I am sorry about that but we are busy and the parking lot gets full when we are busy.

Woman: Well I was here.

YM: Yes mam, and you can come in, I am sorry about that. How can I help you?

Woman: We are going out of town next week and I need an alignment now.

YM: Well mam there is going to be at a minimum a two and half hour wait tonight, possibly longer.

At this point the woman's husband steps up

Husband: Would it be better if we came back in the morning?

YM: Well of course it would be, we probably wouldn't have anyone in line before you and could get you finished in 45 minutes. If you really want it done tonight though we can do an alignment tonight, it isn't like I want to go home at any point tonight (by this time he was not attempting to hide his sarcasm) 

Husband (obviously missing said sarcasm): Oh good then we will do it tonight.

The poor guy just stared at them a minute before ushering them back to the counter.
After they had finished all the paper work the woman asked again how long it would be. The young man told her again it would be close to three hours at this point before her car was ready. She looked around at all of us playing on our phones and then back to the young man and asked, without hiding her disdain, "We don't have to wait here do we? That is a really long time."

I watched as this poor guy stopped and made himself swallow whatever nasty comment had popped to mind. He took a deep breath and shook his head. He told her "No mam, you don't have to stay here and wait for your car. We will stay here extra late to make sure that your car gets an alignment, but you don't have to be inconvenienced by having to sit here wasting time for the next three hours, we will call you when it is ready and then sit and wait for you to get back to pick it up."

I can't help but to imagine that that poor guy had to sit there waiting for them to come get their car well after everyone else was done and gone.

These people were awful. They did not have an emergency with their car. Their was nothing urgent that couldn't wait until the next day. They were made well aware that they were going to make the staff of the establishment stay late on what was obviously already going to be a late night. They were rude to the guy and yelled at him because he had been doing his job. He was nothing but polite (if not a little snarky) and he went out of his way to help them. He easily could have told them to come back the next day, but he did the good customer service thing and defused an angry customer.

We have become a nation of people who expect to be able to have any problem solved immediately. We want 24 hour customer service that can fix every issue no matter how trivial. We don't just want someone there to help us when our power goes out, our credit card is stolen, or our car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Those are all things that are reasonable to want immediate help with. We also want someone there to handle 'problems' that are nothing more than wants and whims.

We don't think about the fact that in order for us to have someone there on the weekends, holidays, and after hours, that we are making someone give up their weekends, holidays, and after hours time. We don't think that those people, while it being their job, might not want to give up that time to work so that you can have support on your brand new Kindle. Yea it would suck to get a new toy on Christmas that doesn't work, but it sucks more to expect someone to give up their Christmas just in case your toy doesn't work.

I think that everyone should be forced to work two very specific jobs for at least 6 months of their lives. I think everyone should have to work as a server at a non fine dining restaurant and I think they should be forced to work in some form of customer service, preferably retail customer service. There is nothing like counting out your tips after having dozens of people yell at you and kids throwing food at you to make you appreciate everyone who ever served you food before. There is also nothing like coming off a 10 hour retail shift, or phone support shift, to make you want to give a hug and send chocolates to every person who has ever helped you in a store.

I have worked in both of these situations and because of it I am a better customer. Really what that is what it comes down to; being a good customer. Yes it is the job of the person in customer service to be helpful and courteous. They are being paid to serve you. What they are not being paid to do is to be treated like some second hand citizen. They are not there for you to scream and yell at them. They are not there for you to take out your frustrations on. They are not there to be your punching bag.

Service is a two way street. If they are there to help you, you should be thankful that they are willing to do this job, possibly giving up weekends or holiday time to do it, and you should treat them with respect. If you are angry or frustrated keep a calm tone and explain to them that you are angry but not angry at them, and while you may get loud or a bit ranty it really isn't their fault and you are sorry if it comes across that way. You should do your best to not make their jobs and lives harder, especially if your problem isn't an emergency.

Yes you will come across people in the service industry who are incompetent, inconsiderate, inept, or are completely disinclined to actually help. Yes at that point you can be justified in getting angry at them, but that still doesn't give you the right to be a jackhole to them. Call their manager, tell them what the problem is, explain things in a rational way like civilized people should do.

Keep these things in mind this holiday season. As the world is rushing about like chickens with their heads cut off, remember that this is a season of peace and joy and happiness. Remember that the season is about being together with people you love, not about the things you give. Remember that everyone is in just as big a rush as you are and that patience and understanding really could be the best gift you could give to some poor stranger who is trying their hardest to make everyone's holidays work.

Most of all remember to treat people the way you would want to be treated.
Don't be a holiday jackhole.

* I am writing at work and the last thing I need is someone to walk by and see me repeatedly typing expletives, so I just combined two of my favorites. If you don't get it, your friends are nothing like my friends.

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