‘Standard’ but not Acceptable – The Demise of Customer Service

Customer Service

Okay, first things first – I have to admit that I’m a bit of a shopaholic. What can I say – it’s one of my few vices so why not! It’s harmless enough…until the Visa bill comes.

In my many interactions with retail establishments and the staff that serve within them, I have come to notice a growing trend in the decline of good customer service. When I first started noticing it I thought perhaps the person serving me was just having a bad day or maybe they were busy with other things and were trying to get it all done. As it happened again and again, I wondered if I was doing something to provoke it. Was I being rude? Did I have a closed off expression on my face that led the sales person to think I wasn’t friendly? I took a step back and watched sales people with other customers and sure enough, the same behavior was repeated over and over again. This is when I started being more aware of the level of service around me.

You’d think the grocery store would be a safe bet for good customer service. At the very least, the checkout clerk would say hello and exchange a few pleasantries right? Wrong! I was shocked when I first encountered what I refer to as a non-talker. At the start of my transaction, I looked up at the clerk and said hello. What I got in return was a blank face and then she started to scan my items in. When all the items were scanned, she stopped, looked up and said nothing. It caught me off guard and I too stood there for a moment and said nothing. Then I realized she wasn’t going to say anything and would just wait for me to clue in that it was time to pay. Sure enough, once I said I wanted to pay with my visa, she turned the machine towards me and I inserted my card. Once approved, she tore my receipt off the machine and put it in one of my grocery bags. That was it and she moved on to the next customer. Not a single word was spoken in that entire time! I was flabbergasted! I walked out of the store in a daze. Did that just happen? Did I really just go through an entire transaction without the clerk saying a single thing to me? Not even telling me what my total bill came to! Surely this wasn’t a common occurrence.

Oh but it is… I’ve run into non-talkers at coffee shops too. These people just stand there and wait for you to tell them what you want. No “hello” or “how can I help you?” – just blank stares and vacant expressions. Really? Is this what customer service has dwindled down to? I thought there was no way this was the norm. I told my friends about my experiences and was surprised when they told me that they too had experienced the same thing. One friend went so far as to say that this was just ‘standard’ and ‘the way things were done these days’. No way! I’m all for fast and efficient service but come on people, we have time to say ‘hello’. Surely we aren’t so busy and so self-involved that we can’t even make that very basic of human connection.

I decided to raise my level of awareness and see just how common these instances of bad customer service were. Unfortunately, I kept coming across more examples and found something even worse than a non-talker. What’s worse than a non-talker? The sales person that acknowledges you exist and then goes back to talking to their coworker. Have you ever experienced that before? You get to the checkout and the sales person says hello. They begin to ring in your purchase and carry on a conversation with their coworker the whole time, only stopping briefly to collect payment and send you on your way. I’m not asking for a lot here people but come on, surely common courtesy says they should at least make an effort to talk to their customers. If the customer is non-responsive then by all means, they can go back to talking to their coworker but let’s not forget what they are getting paid to do.

I can almost deal with sales people carrying on their own conversations but what I can’t handle is when I get to the checkout and they don’t even acknowledge my presence until they’re done talking to their coworker. Now that I just won’t stand for. I understand if they are talking about something work related that needs to be attended to first but if they are catching up on their weekends and could care less that I’m standing their waiting, I’m going to let them know my time is just as valuable as theirs.

It blows my mind when I experience customer service as bad as this. It’s like these people have never been taught how to properly interact with a customer. Or perhaps they just don’t care. Maybe this is an affect of our new ‘socially connected’ world where we spend more time looking down at our phones than we do looking at each other. Has today’s generation grown up feeling more comfortable Posting and Tweeting than actually talking to someone face to face? Is that why when it comes to actual human interaction they are at a loss? Perhaps those blank stares I spoke about earlier are a result of the expressions on their face as they peruse their social media walls on their phones. If so, how very sad indeed because I can guarantee that they will never experience the same level of human connectivity through technology that they could get from actually talking to someone face to face.

All is not lost though. I’m happy to say, not all sales people are like this. Thankfully there are still a lot out there that value good customer service and offer it with a smile. Now they just stand out more, and I for one, am very grateful for them.

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