How Customer Service Ruined America

I appreciate good customer service. I also give good customer service.

But good customer service turns people into assholes. Hear me out.

Much as we like to believe in maturity, at heart, humans are toddlers. We learn behaviors* based on positive or negative reinforcement. As anyone who has dealt with the voice on the other end of a customer service line can tell you, bad behavior is encouraged when dealing with customer service reps. Speaking calmly and reasonably generally gets a response of “we’re so sorry you were inconvenienced, but…” It’s the screamers who get refunds.

I was working in Development for a company that also had a sales department (I’m being intentionally vague, though my 15 readers probably know what I’m talking about). There was a large sale one day, but purchases had to be made in person, not on the phone or online. A Patron pulls up, parks her car uber-illegally, and gets in line to make a purchase. A number of staff members note the illegally parked car and suggest, then cajole, and finally beg her to move it, lest it get towed. She refuses. It (surprise!) gets towed. And that woman raised such hell about it that my former company paid for the impound fees and ticket. You read that correctly. They paid her impound fees.That was the moment I realized that customer service was ruining society. That woman was not only not punished for being an absolute, maniacal asshat, but she was rewarded. Handsomely.

It becomes a cycle. We see it work for someone else. We try it once (I’m guilty! I admit it!). It works! Suddenly everyone is a jerk because, well, it gets things accomplished.

There has to be a middle ground between waiting patiently on hold for 5 hours and screaming your way to free cable. There must be a way to serve your customers without creating monsters. Address the reasonable requests with reasonable solutions and take the loss of a customer now and then when the occasional screaming lunatic rolls through demanding the world. Normal customers will feel less screwed because they aren’t seeing their crazier counterparts walk away with free loot and companies will feel less screwed because they aren’t paying ludicrous “fines” to spoiled nutballs. Thereby being kinder to their reasonable customers? Oh, I’m giving corporations way too much credit, aren’t I? There’s no going back now, huh. Shine on, you crazy diamonds.

*Not trying to spark a Nature v. Nurture debate. My opinion lies somewhere in the middle, both inherited and learned.

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4 thoughts on “How Customer Service Ruined America

  1. You are totally right. I also think that rich people tend to complain more while poorer people tend take what they are given, resulting in discounts for the rich and the poor paying full price– this was totally the case at the vet clinic where I worked.

  2. I kind of enjoy the fact that I’ve heard all your rants before (having lived with you for 3+ years) and that you got to practice them on me before they graduated to the blog-o-sphere. 🙂

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