Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Service with a Smile/Grimace

If you've ever been gainfully employed in any industry which requires you to deal with other people ie customers, no doubt you have a story or two to tell about that crazy/funny/bitchy/smelly person who scarred you for life and made you thankful that you own antiperspirant and a sense of humour. They exist in every industry, in every shop, and every Sales Assistant/Hospitality Worker/Call Centre Employee etc etc has dealt with them. Even when it is cyber-service, they still exist and probably come off ruder than they actually are because the majority of people still have no concept of e-etiquette. At least you can't smell them online. Whenever I have a 'long' day dealing with eejits, I head on over to good old Vogue Forums and gleefully flick through this thread: because remember people, there's always someone worse off. Like the poor boy someone just posted about who got slapped because the company he worked for dared to try and be green by charging 10c for a plastic bag (I imagine he works at Borders). Only in America, you might say, except if it was there and not in laidback Aus at least Customer would've been slapped with a lawsuit. I've worked in retail, I've worked in a call centre, and after a university degree and mind-opening travel, I still work in customer service, of sorts. (Soon, people, soon I will have a high backed office chair like Darren Lyons and simply sit in my office doing mega-bucks deals while my expert team field customer queries. Away, vile peasants!). Why? There is a genuinely nice feeling you get when a customer is genuinely appreciative of the help you give them, if they come away with good advice or help or a smashing new outfit or face cream. It's like you've done your little pile of good for the day.

When I worked for Westpac in order to fund trips to the UK, the occassional customer was nice enough to put in a compliment, or to even say "thankyou, have a nice evening". I even helped a nice old gentleman work out the interest he was earning and the fees he was being charged to the CENT because he was friendly. I also got yelled at by a possibly illiterate and definitely stupid woman who rang up to change her address, but refused to identify herself, assuming that my supercomputer and "the system" could tell who she was merely by her voice. After nearly wetting myself with laughter at her "threats" I put her on hold to go through to a "supervisor" at which she yelled again for being "passed away". If only, love, if only. Then there was the mysterious nameless lady who was not in fact a westpac customer, but took great delight in telling me how she escaped from her relationship, presumably with a man but possibly with reality, to be isolated in the snow capped mountains of Switzerland. And once she got there, Westpac swindled her of $30k. I mean, what do you say to that? "Sorry to hear that ma'am, but perhaps that's what happened in your Mills & Boon and not in fact, in your life? And also, there aren't any shops up there, so you wont need your $30k anyway".

Of course, it works both ways: as a customer you have a right to expect good service, but as a customer you also have the responsibility to treat the person serving you with respect and just a hint of good manners. It's incredibly annoying when you honestly wish to browse and you keep getting pestered by a salesperson working on commission and/or terrified of being mystery shopped, and thus making sure they go through every step of the Good Service Manual. Saying firmly but politely, "No thankyou I do not wish to purchase your expensive 3-step skincare with my little pot of eyeshadow", "Thankyou I will try this lush hand cream but no I won't purchase it", "Spray me with your designer perfume there but please don't aim for my eyes" generally means customer walks away having gained service, and salesperson is satisifed that they have followed their employers guidelines and will get a shift next week. I am always way too afraid to be rude in a restaurant in case my meal gets spat in, but if I sit for twenty minutes waiting to be served and still not even a glass of water or a menu, well, I take issue. By glaring at the snotty waitpersons and stomping out of there, being sure to tell everybody I know not to visit said eating establishment because the staff wee in the soup. It works. Oh and FYI: usually if customer orders and pays for a chicken sandwich, he or she expects to get chicken in it. Not just tomato, cheese, onion, bread and an exasperated sigh and curt response when he or she politely asks for the chicken to please be included before he or she consumes said sandwich. FFS.

But I digress. In a perfect world, customers and customer service people would exist in harmony, words such as 'please' would be sprinkled with gay abandon throughout conversations, and regularly cleaned teeth would be flashed at each other between non chapped lips by expression of satisfaction. Alas, it is not so. At least it's good fodder for late night forum posting.

(Disclaimer: 99% of FrockYou customers are completely lovely and respond well to smiley emoticos and polite conversation, and in turn get fast service and fabulous frocks. The other 1%, well, they will find themselves blogged about, trust me.....)

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