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The Razor's Edge
by p.l. frank
The New Face of Customer Service

As a final note, the supervisor proudly informed Noah that all of their operators are involved in periodic customer service training. What for?, Noah wondered. The customer service reps already know how to be polite. They just don't find it a useful tool.

The examples of rudeness and incompetence run the gamut. The stories can come from any field or profession that deals with the public. Some of the examples reported included a retail sales clerk who tries to intimidate his customers into buying more expensive models by asking, "Do you normally buy cheap products?" or "Don't you even care about what others will think about you?".

There was the telephone company representative who never processed an order for new service made some thirty days earlier, and all of her customer service colleagues who did not apologize for the subsequent five no-shows by the technician. (That's five days without telephone service and five days of waiting around all day for the telephone company to show up.) Or the customer service representative who not only did not apologize for the bad service, but informed the customer curtly that she was "just going to have to wait" (for the sixth day in a row) for the technician to connect the lines.

And then there were the utility company customer service reps who made up answers (later confirmed by their supervisor) in response to a (now irate) customer who wanted to know why, after two months of persistent calls, his bill had still not been corrected.

There was the shoe store retail clerk who, after being asked for a particular boot, and discovering it was unavailable, brought out an alternate choice that had not been requested, and told the customer that her legs were "too heavy to be wearing boots anyhow".

And, there was the customer service representative from the cable company who informed a new, potential customer who had just relocated from across the country that he would have to send in photocopies of his and his wife's driver license and proof of their previous address in order to "prove they were not the people who had lived in the residence previously" (are they kidding? Prove you are not someone?) before they would be allowed to sign up for cable. Apparently, the people who had previously lived at that house had left without paying their cable bill. Apparently the cable company is oblivious about proper, courteous protocol for interacting with people---especially people who are potential customers.

Lest you think that these stories are only anecdotal and are more a function of some rare fluke than common occurrences, let me assure you this is not the case. In fact, the people I interviewed poured forth with many, many stories just like these. Everyone had at least one incident, most people had several. No matter where in the country they had experienced these events, the common thread ran through: rudeness and intentional (or unintentional) incompetence is pervasive today. Furthermore, the American public is overwhelmed with frustration about what to do to correct it, and eager to have a forum to express this frustration. Hmm. Perhaps the roadways are a good outlet.

end

b i o
P.L. Frank enjoys writing both nonfiction social satire and funny, thought-provoking novels.  Dr. Frank has been a researcher in the field of Behavioral and Social Sciences since 1983, and has worked as a university professor and therapist. 

The writer of this article welcomes your comments: plfrank@mindjack.com