Putting the customer back in customer service

Customer service is such a simple term that seems to be harder and harder to maintain. I’ve been on both sides and can honestly say that it’s not an easy job to be in. There are chronically disgruntled people out there, who seem to ooze difficulty, which just makes it harder for somebody in the service industry to do their job. But when you’re on the other side, and you’re not said disgruntled person, who is just looking for some information and you get met with attitude and impatience, it’s hard to remain calm. Now, those who know me will tell you that I can be a bit loud at times. I like to refer to it as excitable! I am also not one to see something wrong and not say something. I can’t help it.

I credit part of that to my parents, and part of that to a previous job I had in an insurance call centre. I can assure you, nobody calls an insurance call centre to say thank you for my premiums, or that we’re doing a great job. It was always for a reason; that their premiums were too high, they were in an accident or something horrible happened to their home. It wasn’t all hearts and roses. In fact, my first week on the phones happened to be the ice storm in Montreal that paralyzed that city. I learned a lot in a short period of time and the bottom line is that these people had something bad/wrong happen to them and of course they were going to be upset.

I only lasted two years in that call centre, as it’s hard getting yelled at and cried to everyday, but there is one thing I took away from that job; never say no. That was part of our training. We were to do our best on every call to help the customer in any way we could. And if we didn’t know the answer, than we would tell them we’d look into it and get back to them. No, wasn’t an option. Ever.

So off I go into the real world, in my mid-twenties, and I start to realize that not everybody has that same attitude. A lot of times people in these customer facing jobs just want to get you off the phone or out of a store as soon as possible. Now, let me stop by saying that’s not always true, but it is those that you battle with that you remember the most. Unfortunately those customer service angels don’t always get the recognition they should. I would like to thank one that should…

Once, my friends and I at work went to a local restaurant for lunch, on a busy Friday afternoon. This national chain of restaurants was full of lunch functions and buzzing with excitement. We were seated and our order was taken promptly. Then when our food came, as I was picking up my hamburger to take a bite, the server returned and thanked us for coming and dropped the bill on the table. Huh?! I haven’t even taken a bite yet. I didn’t get a refill on my drink yet. What if I wanted dessert??! I wasn’t too happy and then the server came by not five minutes later to check the folder to see if we had paid yet. Seriously?! And so I did what any good person would do, I flagged down the manager. When she came over, I explained that while we understood that it was busy, rushing us out was not good service. I pointed that I had two bites out of my food at that point, and felt like we didn’t matter. She just wanted the money and we should hurry up and get out of there.

Let me tell you that the manager didn’t respond in the way I thought she would. I thought we would be offered a complimentary dessert and coffee and that would be the end of it. Instead, she took the bill, apologized profusely and shook all our hands, telling us to ask for her the next time we went back (which she hopes was soon). She then told us that our lunch was on the house and we could order whatever else we wanted.



Impressed would be an understatement. The fact that she shook our hands, asked our names, apologized for her server’s behavior and paid the bill…yeah. Good job.

So it pains me when I have to deal with some large corporations, who have customer service agents that don’t seem to care whether your needs are taken care of, or how they speak to you, as if I’m interrupting them during dinner. (Note: I’m dealing with that right now). We’ll see if the matter can be taken care of the way the manager of that restaurant did, and I don’t mean that I expect something for free. What I do expect is respect, honesty and a bit of effort to keep me coming back.

Is that too much to ask for?

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