Monday, May 15, 2006

Bad Mood Pervades Customer Service Sector

Service with a smile seems to be an oxymoron these days. I remember going to England 30 years ago (ACK! Showing age.) and being bowled over by the indifferent to rude service. I think we've caught up and zoomed right on past rude to bellicose. From chefs coming out to grumble at a patron's change of mind on an order to paper carriers who rifle newspapers at front doors to letter carriers who stop this side short of assaulting a homeowner for complaining about carbon-coated letters to the Post Office to clothes shop sales staff who look up and down a patron before condescendingly answering a question to TTC drivers who "forget" to call out a requested stop to...well...the list is endless, and it makes me tired.

Complaints fall on deaf ears or on sympathetic ones who effect nothing. Being unable to change service people's attitude, being unable to avoid their belligerence, engenders a crippling hopelessness that perpetuates the bad mood from them to the patron to others.

Why has it come to this? Have we imported the de rigeur rude service from other countries, either through globalization or immigration? Are we living on the edge of anger so much all the time that it seeps out to those we are supposed to serve? Are we so sleep deprived that not only do we cause car crashes, we snap at other people? Has the enforced loneliness of the cult of individuality and self-important busy-ness created a society of aggrieved people who don't care about others, only about themselves and how they're feeling because if they don't care about themselves, no-one else will? Are the service people feeling so poor and so resentful at those they serve that they get it out in being rude, as the only safe way they can express their hostility to them becoming poorer while the rich get richer?

Whatever the answer, we need to find it soon because it makes life unpleasant needlessly. The Acts of Random Kindness movement started as an antidote to all the ill will out there. Unfortunately, the ill will hasn't gone away, if anything, it seems stronger. Yet it would disappear if service people, for one moment, focussed on the needs of the customer -- you know, follow Romans 12:20 where we are to feed our enemies...clearly service people see customers as enemies, just as corporations of all stripes see their customers as enemies and their shareholders as friends. But, regardless of how much they're grumbling at us inside their heads, if we at least received a smile, a paper quietly placed at our door, a TTC driver who called out all the stops, we would take that good feeling and pass it onto others and eventually it would cycle back to the original customer service people. Plus a job well done just makes you feel good anyway.

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