Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Your phone call is important to us. We defy you to believe that as you wait on hold twenty-six minutes for the next customer service agent.

I was in a Vroman's bookstore this weekend, and overheard the following exchange:

Clerk 1: Have you started on the stocking yet?
Clerk 2: No, I haven't had a chance.
Clerk 1: We got, like, an hour.
Clerk 2: I know, I know. I'll start it now. And I'm not going to talk to any customers!

Ah, it brings back memories of the retail life.

It's a pretty popular sport right now, complaining about customer service. And with good reason, of course. But I submit to you that poor customer service is so seldom really the fault of the customer service clerk, or the cashier, or the barista.

My ex used to work at that barren wasteland of customer service that is Home Depot. Here's the deal with that: At the beginning of your shift, they give you a buttload of shit to stock, and/or a long-ass list of shit to inventory, and they tell you that you better have it done by the time your shift is over. And believe me, "helping customers" is not an acceptable excuse for not getting it done. Your manager tells you that you have to help customers AND get your stocking/inventory done as well. How do you do that, when you have a whole aisle of people 12 deep waiting for you to show them where the lug nuts are? Well, we all know how they get it done at Home Depot, don't we? By pretending that you, the customer, do not exist. Yep, by putting on those "customer blinders" that allow them to walk right past poor befuddled little you without so much as a glance.

So it's not really the poor retail clerk's fault that he ignores you, is it? He's just trying to keep his fucking job.

Here's another example. I used to work for Starbucks as a assistant store manager. And man, oh man what a bunch of fucking hypocrites those "the customer is so fucking important" fuckers are. See, they got this little thing called a labor matrix, and it shows you how many dollars you bring in per half hour, and how many people they will allow you to have on the floor at any one time based on those dollars. Well, that doesn't sound too bad, does it? That sounds like good, sound capitalism, don't it? Well, yeah, except that built into that matrix is a little equation that basically figures how long customers will wait in line before they give up and walk away, or go completely postal and start thrashing at the pastry case with their cell phone. And then it figures out how to make them wait just 3 fucking seconds shy of that.

So if I was managing the morning rush, and we fell below the dollar figure to keep four people on the floor, I would have to send a person home immediately, NO MATTER HOW MANY PEOPLE WERE WAITING IN LINE. No matter how wretchedly the restrooms were fucked up, no matter how swamped the barista was in half-caf soy pumpkin lattes.

So, again, it really does very little good to berate the barista when your trip to Starbucks takes a half an hour. It really does no good to berate the manager, even. Those decisions about shitty shitty cheap-ass customer service are being made at the corporate level, and that's the only place where they can be addressed.

And jeez, don't even get me started about those call centers in India. It was bad enough, when American phone reps weren't empowered to truly help you. Now, they're not empowered, and you can't understand a fucking word they're saying.

But, you know, have a nice fucking day.

1 comment:

Bro said...

I used to work at a Trauma Center. One night early in my "solo" carreer after my training period I didn't get the bedside stations restocked with med supplies, I had spent the entire time between 2:00 AM and 5:30AM running down to Blood for an incredible 14 units we put in a guy (that died) in addition to two regular Traumas that came in by chopper. Oh man did the guy who trained me light into my ass for not getting the peroxide and bandaids stocked by each bedside because I was doing emergency medical stuff, I was responsible for both. I was pissed, it was outrageous, they had their priorities all wrong.

Later I learned to do both no matter what and it stopped feeling like screwed up priorities, just a higher level of expectation.

Still sounds unfair what they do to you at Home Depot, I stopped buying bottled water there due to poor customer service so they as employers/merchants do have choices they need to make. Feels good to talk with your feet regardless of how futile.