It may be due to post-COVID challenges, such as short staffing, although I am tired of COVID being used as an excuse for every problem. It may be due to generational differences, such as some in younger generations talking to others with a lack of respect, although generational differences are not a valid reason for this. It may be personality differences that create the conflict. It may be isolated events, which just seem to all be coming at me recently. Regardless of the reasons causing the problems, I am so over it. What has happened to the respect people used to show to each other? When did arguing with the customer become acceptable?
I am not going to be specific about the experiences I have encountered lately that show a lack of respect. You probably have your own list. Since a large part of my speaking and consulting business for over thirty years has been helping others with Customer Service, I am going to remind us all (me too!) of Customer Service Principles.
The customer is King. That does not mean the customer is always right. It certainly does not excuse the customer for treating the staff of a business poorly. What it does mean is that the customer should always be treated with respect. A business cannot survive without customers. A customer can survive without the business. Let’s not forget that order, ever.
Communication is key. Communicating why you will not or cannot do what the customer is expecting or asking is insufficient. It is often in the “how” something is said more than the “what” is said that makes a conversation effective or not. Tone of voice is so important. So is facial expression. Also, words used matter. And there is never a place for threatening a customer, which our Uber driver did this morning while taking us to the airport. The threat was to stop the car and put us out on the side of the road if one more word was said! Amazing! The details are unimportant. You can imagine how hard it was for me to not reply to that threat.
Remember, regardless of what you are selling or providing to a customer, the first priority is Service. The definition of Service is “helpful activity, aid, the act of serving.” Another definition of Service is “duty to be rendered by one to another.” Simple, and even usually easy, but unfortunately, not as common as it was in the past.
If one is in any position in which there is an interface with a customer, it is important to remember that the customer puts food on the table of the staff. Again, that does not excuse the customer for treating the staff with a lack of respect, but it does put the responsibility on the staff to serve the customer, not the other way around.
When the staff of a business treats the customer poorly, it is important to make management aware of the problem. If management responds appropriately (which may include several options,) we may assume that is an isolated event, and continue to support the business. If not, we should walk with our money, taking our business elsewhere. When too many people defect from the business, something may change for the better for customers. We do not need to post negative reviews on social media, which may feel good momentarily, but create more problems than those problems are worth.
I have noticed an increase in customer service reviews lately. It seems that more businesses are having customers review their services than ever before. Unfortunately, the reviews do not seem to be solving any problems. Perhaps people are not taking the time to complete the reviews. If it takes too much time to do the reviews, people will not spend their time doing so. If, however, the review is simple and quick to complete, we should spend our time completing them.
One company I do business with frequently has a very simple review which I usually complete. There is one simple question to answer: “If you owned a business, would you hire the person with whom you last spoke?” All that requires is a “yes” or “no” answer, not a reason why. The reason for a “no” really doesn’t matter. The details may be important to management, but the customer does not need to take their time to go into that. Management should have other ways to figure that out.
We should spend our time and money doing business with those who appreciate us and our business, and who treat us well. Our time and money are too valuable to do otherwise.