Good customer service is scarce

TaLeiza CallowayColumn, Opinion, St. JosephLeave a Comment

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, one definition of the word courtesy is “polite behavior.”

Some might think to themselves, I know what courtesy is supposed to look like, but a sad reality is it is becoming harder and harder to spot when it comes to customer service.

Whether you’re shopping in the grocery store, your local mall or driving through a restaurant for food, this polite behavior is rare. That is especially the case for some staff of drive-through restaurants.

There are countless times when I pull up to order food and take a few minutes to browse the menu. Less than five minutes passes and someone asks,

“May I take your order?”

I reply, “Thank you, I need a few minutes to look at your menu.”

They might wait 10 seconds before repeating the question. First of all, why are you in such a rush? I can ask that question because I often get that push to hurry up when I am the only one in the drive-through line, and the staff person is clearly 10 minutes away from their shift ending and they are ready to go.

Second, isn’t it your goal to get me to spend my money at your restaurant? I think the answer is “Yes” but rushing me is a sure way for me not ever to return.

Courtesy is a vital part of customer service. I’d like to think the basics of courtesy are reviewed during the orientation process at all businesses that require interaction with people. The message might be falling on deaf ears.

What about automated message systems?

The lady with the electronic voice always sounds friendly when I press “1” to pay my car insurance bill. However, when I press “0” to speak to a real human being, she gets a little persistent and pretends not to know I am requesting an active being. Her response: “I didn’t catch that. Would you like to speak to someone in Customer Service?”

I press “0” again in hopes of being transferred to a person, only to be greeted by the electronic lady’s repeat and pre-recorded response.

There is nothing more frustrating than trying to pay a bill or ask a question about an important matter like car insurance only to be halted by an automated system.

Don’t get me wrong; when they work, it’s great. Although I still call back and make a real live human being note additions or subtractions to my account the electronic lady might have missed. After all, she is a computer.

Good customer service comes from people, not computers. I have previously purchased items simply because the person who was selling it was so professional in their presentation. The most recent positive customer-service experience came from local Girl Scouts. The girls knew their product and sold their cookies with bright smiles.

When I think of the major bills I pay, I realize there are few that can be paid in person or by calling and having someone pick up the phone. It’s all about online bill pay or creating online accounts to pay a company through its website.

My heart goes out to senior citizens and some young adults who are forced to deal with the lack of people behind desks anymore. And my heart goes out to others who don’t like, are unfamiliar with or just can’t operate a computer. I personally wish more companies thought of that before they make customers talk to pre-recorded messages and my personal favorite – charge extra for using a credit card by phone.

I know it’s 2012, times continue to change and we all have to try to keep up.  But when it comes to spending my money, I really don’t want to rely on a machine to make sure it gets into the right hands. Machines, like people, fail but at least if I’m talking to real people, they can answer my questions without me having to press several buttons.


Author: TaLeiza Calloway

TaLeiza Calloway is a professional journalist in Central Minnesota. Her byline has appeared in the St. Cloud Times and Central Minnesota Women Magazine. The Ohio native moved to Minnesota about four years ago. She joined the St. Joseph Newsleader staff as a reporter in November 2011.

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