Opinion: Customer service (2)

POSTED: 11/8/11 6:39 PM

Let’s dig into the topic of customer service a bit more. The term itself is misleading because it suggests (in general) a relationship between a buyer and a seller – like a shopper in a supermarket, a client at a hairdresser, or a traveler on an airplane.
Here is a different way of looking at customer service though. Within a family, a school a business, a government department – virtually everywhere where people interact with each other, customer service skills are useful to make things work.
Unfortunately, on many levels customer service is non-existent. Just look around and you’ll find plenty of examples. The breakdown of communication between people is in general caused by something that goes by a three-letter word.
Ego.
People tend to blame things that are not going their way on others. It’s such a natural reaction, that many people think this is normal whereas in fact it is not normal at all.
John F. Kennedy’s famous quote, Don’t ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country is getting old, but it is still valid today. And what’s more, it is applicable on every level, from the family and the work place to traffic and public places.
Think about it.
Your job description defines your responsibilities and those of your colleagues, but one of your colleagues is slacking. You know that if his job does not get done properly, your company will suffer the consequences. You’ll end up with unhappy customers. In the long term, this will also endanger your own job.
Ah, the first reaction is to call the slacker on his (or her) responsibilities. But what if that does not have any effect? Will you turn a blind eye, complain loudly about the slacker and let everything go to hell? Or will you pick up were the slacker left off, thus making sure that the customers of your company get what they are paying for?
Customer service is in the details. It is true that it does not take a lot to tick off a customer, but the opposite is also true. It does not take a lot to make a customer happy.
Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh calls this the WOW-experience. He wants his staff to WOW customers, to give them an unforgettable experience, and he’ll go to any length to make this happen.
In St Maarten we encounter a different attitude. People are quick – too quick, in our opinion – to claim that something they are asked to do is not their job.
We’ve thought long and hard about this phenomenon. Why do people have such an attitude? The first thought that comes to mind is that they do not care. From there, we hopped easily to another local favorite: respect.
Nowhere else in the world are people so quick with a remark like, He disrespected me, or, You don’t respect me. We happen to know that you are the words that you use. And we also happen to know that whatever somebody says, it tells us more about the person who uses the words, than about the target of the remark.
Let’s take this simple example: I don’t care.
This tells us that the person who utters these words does not care about himself or herself. In fact, by saying something like this, the speaker disrespects him or herself.
That, in turn, brings about the question why anybody would want to do such a thing to her or himself.
Oh oh, that is easy: someone who is disrespected is a victim. And the world loves victims. It is wonderful to be a victim, a bit like a bird with a broken wing, because there is always somebody around who feels the need to help.
So now we get to the heart of the matter. Victims know that there is someone out there who wants to help. All they have to do to get that help is turn themselves into a victim. Nobody is paying attention to people who are strong enough to take care of their own business.
Victims are crying for help, and when that help is offered to them they consistently refuse to accept it. Why? Well, if they accepted help, they would lose their victim-status and all the attention that comes with it.
These victims then, are the people who usually provide bad customer service. Whether it is a surly immigration officer, a rude policeman or a grumpy cashier, the result is always the same. Victims turn themselves into the center of the universe; that is where they get the attention they crave and unless someone manages to break down the walls they have built around them, their attitude will never change.

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