Customer Service Informative - When Did The Customer Become The Enemy?

Review by fireheart17 on 2009-06-01
Someone online once asked us "When did the customer become the enemy?" While there may not have been an exact date, I can probably safely say that the customer became the enemy through several factors, some of which are from one end, some of which are from the customer's end. The customer is not always a chaste angel, capable of doing no wrong.

Some reasons as to why the customer may be considered the enemy.

1) Shoplifting/scamming. Many of the public do not realize just what effect shoplifters and scammers have on the customer service industry. As a result of the public seeking the five-finger discount, or a quick buck, companies have had to increase prices to eat the merchandise that they lost, toughened up their loss prevention measures (bag checking isn't always just to see what you have so they can sell it ya know) or even placed their merchandise out of public reach, only accessible by the employees. People may no longer be able to break notes because the company has had quick-change artists, people buying expensive gift cards may only be able to process them through certain people, the list goes on.

2) The general respect towards retail workers. Just like every single job, there is always going to be some dead wood. However, that does not mean that all retail workers are dead wood. Many of them are trying to earn some money while they are at college or even in high school, to pay for their car, rent for their house if they have one, maybe go out with friends from time to time, trying basically to ensure that they get some independence in their lives. But from day to day, retail workers are seen as the Lowest of the low simply because they make mistakes, have an opinion, have breaks and maybe might actually want to become the customer once they have finished for the day.

3) Unreasonable demands. I have seen many letters online, both here and in other parts of the Internet, that to me, are simply unreasonable. There's a line between providing good customer service and basically kissing ass because you want them to. Free food, free product, free whatever, are not reasonable demands. A discount maybe, but not a free item. Demanding somebody else be fired is unreasonable as well (see No.2). You are not the queen/king, and they are not your slaves.

4) Consumer watchdogs and TV/Magazine/Newspaper items that promote certain ideals. Yes, the ideas work, but if they say no, they say no. Some of the practices are actually illegal in certain areas (selling of damaged food for example) so demanding that they do this, this and this, while it may work in one or two areas, do not keep hampering them until they do so. Be polite. It may actually result in a fully-justifiable ban.

and finally...

5) A general lack of common sense. Do you use the entire household as a toilet? If you don't, then don't go into a supermarket and take a dump on the floor. Do you put your cleaning products alongside raw meat? If you don't, then don't do the same in a supermarket. Do you look like a minor, or do you take your minors with you when you go liquor shopping? Then be prepared to show ID if someone asks you. Yes, they are allowed to show ID if you LOOK under a certain age. They cannot tell how old you are by mindreading, or by looks alone. If you need the toilet, ask someone to hold your stuff while you go shopping. Don't demand a personal shopper. If you have such a problem, it's called online shopping.

So basically, this could possibly be why customer service is sliding downhill and why the customer may be considered the enemy.
Comments:5 Replies - Latest reply on 2009-06-03
Posted by Buddy01 on 2009-06-02:
To number two I would add that there are people who assume retail workers are not intelligent. Many of them are more intelligent than the shoppers who assume they are superior to the workers.
Posted by goduke on 2009-06-02:
A lot of this stuff has been around forever. Shoplifting has always existed. People have never had common sense. consumer watchdogs have been around for decades. I think it's a different issue.

(1) When did we stop being nice? Somewhere along the way, someone opened the door and said it's perfectly o.k. to get in people's face, berate them publicly, call them names, make them feel stupid, etc. And that happens on both sides of the service counter. You see it amplified in the online consumer sites, as people will pretty much say anything when it's anonymous. The kid at the register follows his boss's instructions on what to do, and because I don't like it, I feel that I can yell at him. We've all seen it. Even when we're not getting our way, it doesn't seem like it would be so very difficult to be civil.

(2) Customer service today is very complex, and most companies delegate it to the lower paid levels of the company. Go to the electronics section of Target or Walmart and start asking detailed questions about the cameras they have out (e.g., "how does the white noise reduction on this camera compare to another one"). By and large, they have no clue, and I'm not sure that I can realistically expect them to. Yet when they can't, I see it as a massive service failure (rather than reserching it myself) and sometimes loop back to issue #1. The CSR puts a coupon up to the scanner (which they've been told to trust completely) and when the scanner rejects the coupon, I blow a gasket because the kid can't give me a detailed answer right then. Oftentimes, they haven't got a clue, as the system doesn't tell them why. So it seems that the expectation/delivery mechanism has set up a natural conflict. Not sure how to fix that one, because I doubt most people would be willing to pay 10% more at the store in order to get more experienced folks who have received some more in-depth training.
Posted by knightoftheword on 2009-06-02:
I would like to say thanks to those who have commented for several years as I have been in the service industry for many years myself and all of you have hit the nail on the head. I must add however, that there are some employees who just don't care and do give terrible service which can make it that much harder on those who actually do care and do all they are able for the customer. For anyone who appreciates those in the service industry, I am grateful. It's nice to know that there others who know the sometimes difficult world of retail.
Posted by Pepper on 2009-06-02:
buddy01 - you're exactly right.

i've seen stories where customers berate the worker for being "stupid" or "too dumb to get a real job" etc... only to find out that the person was working at that job for cash, while he/she was finishing up a masters degree.

Posted by fireheart17 on 2009-06-03:
Thanks everybody. I'm in the retail industry as well, and I'm from Australia as well. I was writing this a bit late at night, so you'll have to forgive me for forgetting the fact that most retail workers are working and juggling college at the same time.

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