Reader’s Opinion: Customer service

POSTED: 12/20/12 5:17 PM

I’m increasingly disturbed…OK, appalled would be a better word…by an attitude I’m seeing crop up more and more frequently on St. Maarten. I’m kind of a fanatic about customer service. As a result, when I encounter what I perceive to be bad customer service, I’m vocal about it.

What concerns me is the growing number of people who react negatively when I point out bad customer service. Many of them say things that basically amount to “that’s what the stupid customers get for being so stupid and stupidly coming with their stupid complaints!”

More and more, people in general are defending the right of businesses to provide bad service. The icing on the cake was an incident with a gas station attendant in Simpson bay, that was not at her post and when confronted, she tried to inform me that since I’m from St. Maarten and live abroad I should return to St. Maarten to help implement change on the Island.

When I heard that, I saw red. I stormed out of the station vowing never to return. My cousin let me to know that it is standard on St. Maarten to receive that type of attitude. She was right, and part of my frustration is that more people aren’t righteously indignant over the situation.

In one way, we’re getting exactly what we deserve. For far too long, we’ve been tolerating the decline of customer service, and that’s led to a generation of people who think that all the fuss over expecting good customer service is just an “old people thing”. It’s a problem that I refuse to contribute to; I don’t, under any circumstances, tolerate bad service. I’m going to continue to raise a fuss, and I hope you’ll join me.

In that spirit, I’ve composed the following Open Letter to Bad Customer Service Reps and the Companies Who Employ Them. Feel free to use it and insert the names of the offending parties, then send it to the person in the company who can do something about it! As tempting as it is, there’s absolutely no sense in getting into a debate with the person providing the poor service; if they cared at all, they would be giving you good service. Talk to the boss, and talk with your dollars/guilders. It might cost a little more or be inconvenient, but are you really enjoying the less expensive/more convenient alternative? I didn’t think so.

Here is the letter:

“Dear _______________,

I think it’s time we had a little “come to Jesus” meeting about the level of service you provide to me, your Lord and Master. Yes, you read that right: I am your King. In case you’ve forgotten our arrangement, let me remind you: I’m the customer, which makes me the Boss. As such, I expect the following from you in all future interactions:

1. Your respect. In return, I promise to treat you with respect…but you have to go first. When I approach you with a complaint, I don’t want to hear sighs of frustration. I don’t want to see your eyes rolling back. I don’t want to be addressed in a tone that clearly conveys (whether you’re aware of it or not) that you think I’m an idiot. Even if you think that I’m to blame for the problem I’m having, I want you to take ownership of the problem and FIX IT!

2. Your gratitude. Yes, that’s right: I want you to say “Thank you,” and I want you to mean it. After all, if it weren’t for me you wouldn’t have a job! Think about that the next time you take my order or deliver my product or hand me my change. Make eye contact, smile, and say a hearty “Thanks!” We’ll both feel better about the interaction, and I might even mention it to a few of my friends.

3. Your smile. Even if you’re having a bad day, fake it for me. Like it or not, your attitude is written all over your face, and part of my selection criteria for the people I choose to do business with is friendliness.(This is after all the friendly Island) You can convey that friendliness with your facial expression…or not. It’s your choice, and it’s mine to come back to your business…or not.

4. Your deference. I know it’s fallen out of fashion of late, but there used to be a very popular phrase that said “The customer is always right.” Let’s get back to that arrangement, shall we? I’d really appreciate it. And if I’m really not right, let’s just pretend that I am and figure out a way to make me happy, OK? Thanks.

5. Your professionalism. If you make a promise to have something fixed for me by a certain date, make a habit out of keeping that promise. I understand that things can sometimes come up that keep you from fulfilling your commitment to me, but that’s really not my problem. Do your best to get it done anyway.

6. Your honesty. If you quote me a price, stick by it unless I change something. And make sure that the price you quote includes providing me with great customer service after the sale. Don’t give me a low price to get me to buy your stuff, then try to charge me more when something goes wrong. If I have a problem, I want to be able to call you without getting my money out of my wallet. That’s part of our deal.

7. Your enthusiasm. When I come in the door of your business, please look up from what you’re doing and acknowledge my presence. I’m there to spend money on something I want or need, not to be ignored. If I want to be ignored, I’ll go to the Government Building. Acknowledge me, look happy to see me, greet me like I’m the one writing your pay check – because I am!

If you’ll agree to these rules of engagement, I will continue to frequent your establishment and trade my dollars/guilders for your product or service. Should you decide to ignore this request, however, I’ll have no choice but to take my dollars/guilders elsewhere to get the products and service I need.

Oh, you didn’t know I could do that? You weren’t aware that at least ten other establishments in our neighborhood do exactly what you do? And that at least one or two of them would be happy to comply with my list of demands? That’s too bad; you really should get out more. No worries though: you’ll have plenty of time to go check them out when all your customers are gone.


Your (former?) Customer”

Cecil Scott


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