by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 22 June 2007)
If all the letters and columns about bad customer service from the past five years were thrown in a pile, I have to wonder if the lady who takes my money at my own local store would be able to jump over it.
I have to be honest and admit from the start that this is one of my pet peeves. I abhor bad customer service. My feelings come from the most surprising place – experience. If I ever had one job in my life that I enjoyed more than writing, it would be working as a Customer Service Manager (CSM) for Wal-Mart.
Before taking this position, I had never really given customer service a second thought. It simply never occurred to me that it was the job of the local fast food joint to dole out good customer service with their food.
However, when I took a job with Wal-Mart to make a little extra money years ago when my children were young, I learnt what real customer service is suppose to look like. Regardless of all the bad press that this global retail store gets, it truly attempts to be as customer friendly as possible. This is where my role came in as a CSM.
In my particular store, there could be over 20 cashiers at any time during a normal day – all of which I was responsible. During holidays, this number could double. However, my primary responsibility was to deal with the customers – the happy ones as well as those who were irate.
Wal-Mart had one policy when it came to its patrons, “The customer is ALWAYS right.” This meant that whatever complaint a shopper brought to me, it was my job to resolve it in a manner that would make sure that person returned the next week to shop at our store again.
Moreover, I was to get this job done with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. Problem solving is one of my finer assets and being around all of the people with the constant hum of chatter was simply exhilarating, so it was not a chore to do this job everyday.
There were rare occasions when I would encounter a very mean person who was not going to be happy even if I moved heaven and earth. On those days, I would still do the same job and grab a nice chocolate treat to ease the nerves. I gave 110 percent to my job as a CSM and thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it.
This is why I am so picky when it comes to the customer service I receive from others now. I have gone through the checkout lane at grocery stores on more than one occasion when not one word was spoken to me. Not even the amount of the purchase! I had to look at the register to see how much I owed. This is absolutely intolerable.
One person felt the same way about the customer service received this week after visiting the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) office at Camp and Bent Streets. When it was this client’s turn for service, the company’s representatives laughed at this person for not hearing the name being called from behind the door. This alone is simply unacceptable behaviour.
It got worse though. The patron, Mahendra Persaud, wrote in a letter to Kaieteur News this past week, “As I tried to explain to the female worker why I couldn't hear her repeated calling of my name, she became angry and irritable, ranting and raving. Her ostentation, lack of proper reasoning and failure to be a good listener made me quit my explanation."
If this were one of my cashiers at Wal-Mart, I would have fired this person on the spot. In fact, the entire office would have felt my wrath for being so disrespectful to a client. It is utterly shameful that this whole office behaved in such a manner toward a customer.
This was how the customer felt about the situation, “That was indeed an embarrassing and time-wasting situation for me, which at the same time showed the female worker's immaturity, incompetence, ignorance and arrogance to effectively deal with a simple problem.”
When I was the one overseeing so many service providers, they knew I expected no less of a performance from them than I gave to the customers myself. I expected the best customer service from them because I gave the best.
Nothing has changed for me even though I have not worked in customer service for over a decade. I still expect the best customer service. I absolutely refuse to spend my money somewhere that treats me with anything less than the same respect I give to the people I encounter every day.
Proper decorum in places of business is essential if they want return customers (and word of mouth customers). When I receive bad customer service, not only will I not return to that establishment again, but I will also tell others to follow suit. A single disrespectful employee can lose a lot of money for her/his employer.
Likewise, a pleasant and helpful customer representative will encourage me to return and to tell others to patronise that establishment as well. A good product will only go so far if a business has representatives such as those encountered by Mahendra Persaud at that NIS office.
Customers are doing a business a favour by gracing that establishment. There are other places that customer could have gone to spend money, but she/he chose that business. Is it too much to expect a smile, pleasant service and a “thank you for your business” as the customer leaves?
If a business cannot offer at least that much, then it does not deserve to be patronised at all. After all, there are plenty of people who need jobs right now and would be happy to offer good service to the customers.
It is time for restaurants, stores, businesses and government offices to lose those rude and unseemly employees and replace them with people who would appreciate the job and the customer - and who realise that without the customer there is no job.