Customer service – the good, bad and the downright ugly

Lets deal with the bad first………………………………………

We’ve been constantly reminded over the past two years that times are hard, we are in the biggest recession since the 1930’s, trading conditions on the High St are dreadful, we have all become tight and mean and are saving and paying off debt. So much so that when I eventually braved the High St eschewing the Internet for once I expected to be treated like the prodigal son (ok daughter as I am a woman!) and metaphorically speaking be practically venerated upon entering shops and revered.

Happy customers who get their issue resolved tell about 4 to 6 people about their experience.
Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs, Washington, DC

Imagine my shock, when I entered my first High St store (who I hasten to add would have you believe that sedans are waiting outside their stores to carry you in atop the shoulders of gold sprayed hunks) to find I as a cash spending customer am causing great inconvenience to the shop assistants who are only present at the till to chat about their weekends and carry on with inane chatter amongst themselves, taking your cash is a mere trifling inconvenience they could well do without. I was made to feel in the way for having the cheek to actually want to buy something with my hard earned cash. I was one of only two customers at the 8 person till actually in the queue!

For every customer complaint, there are 26 other customers who have remained silent
Source: Lee Resource Inc

I then proceeded to another retailer (independent this time) who I assumed (wrongly) would be delighted to offer that personal service in order to part me from my cash which to be fair is as easy as slicing butter with a hot knife. Instead, I got shouted at, eyes rolled to the skies, for daring to ask the price of something while she was chatting on her mobile. I was the only one there and after that telling off even I was off as well.

86% of consumers quit doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience, up from 59% 4 years ago
Source: Harris Interactive, Customer Experience Impact Report

Buying groceries in one store (who I hasten to add has yet to turn a profit in the UK), I was treated like an Al Qaeda member attempting to pass through JFK waving a home made bomb wrapped in his underpants. The crowd control operative only had me to shout at through his earpiece and microphone and marched me personally to the farthest till in the store, it was so far and he was so menacing I thought I was on my way for a body search and a bit of recreational water-boarding, when all I went in for was a punnett of tomatoes and a loaf of bread. Rude doesn’t even come close.

91% of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with your organization again
Source: Lee Resource Inc.

Not one to go home defeated I trotted off to an upmarket beauty emporium to buy a lipstick where I could at least guarantee being treated like dirt. I was once imperiously informed by an upstart there that Angelina Jolie was in just before me -the inference being I had no business treading in her hallowed footsteps, when would I get the message and stay away – for good!. I dread to think what would happen if Jennifer graced their doors! At least there I know what I am letting myself in for and there is certain comfort in the familiar and lo and behold it didn’t disappoint. The assistant appeared genuinely shocked that I had the brass neck (being a normal Jo public) to even enter the store, not to mention actually being so common as to part with cash to buy anything ( she had previously deigned to advise me Ms Jolie got the lippy for free) she actually forgot to be rude.

A dissatisfied consumer will tell between 9 and 15 people about their experience. About 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people.
Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs, Washington, DC

On some sort of machoistic roll I then availed of the late night Post Office opening hours (4.30 p.m.!), which takes treating customers like dirt to a whole new level. No one bothers to even pretend they like themselves or their job never mind liking you, Its done so well and with that extra bit of pathos and misery thrown in I actually applaud them at least they are keeping it real and in a perverse way I enjoy it. No hypocrisy or new fangled customer service nonsense here and the message of utter disdain is consistent throughout the network from the collection depot in Fulham to the Holloway Road branch to the one on Kensington High St to Hackney. Most corporations I know pay millions for that sort of consistency across their brand and Royal Mail I wager spends not a penny on it. Royal Mail doesn’t treat us like fools they just treat us like vermin.

Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business.
Zig Ziglar

That my friends (all you retailers out there) is the trick. Just not promising anything at all does not disappoint and we adjust our expectations accordingly or just keep on shopping online! If you say you will do it then make damned sure you do because we won’t come back if you fail us, there is nothing as bad as promising to do something and then you don’t. Just don’t dress your appalling service into something that its not, lie and treat us like fools and expect us not to notice not to mention expect us to go back because once we are lost to you we are lost for good especially in these challenging economic times and just remember

>‘It takes 12 positive service experiences to make up for one negative experience’
Source: “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner

3 Responses

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Interestingly enough, I have been living in Germany now 25 years and it is probably worse here than anywhere else I have been in the western world: Sales people seem to have been ruthlessly taught to act busy when customers enter sales premises and indulge in purchasing goods and services: There is a proverb here in Germany: Achtung Kunden droht mit Auftrag”: meaning: “Beware customer is threatening with an order”. Rudeness is normality towards customers who do not even know better and an incredible amount of awareness could be taught into treating human beings like human beings and not like machines! Regards from Hamburg Germany.

I kindly wanted to get in touch with you but somehow your hyperlinks at the top of your website – all of them – do lead to faulty connections – so I am leaving this note here in public, which I sincerely apologize for doing but I had no other choice! Kind Regards Bruno., please follow me on Twitter at: BrunoGebarski


Thanks Bruno

Not sure what is happening but I will get it checked out.

Thanks for following the blog and sharing your thoughts.


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