Recently my customer service experiences have been the worst of my entire life. I have been left with my blood boiling, teeth grinding and murder in my eyes. Offenders included the Royal Mail, London Underground, Tesco, Automat, Royal Greenwich Council, South Eastern Trains, M&S, Santander and serial fuck-up BT. Rather than bore you with each complaint in turn I preferred to write about where I think it all went wrong and how we can get good service back.
Good customer service is not exclusively served by dead-eyed, smiling Americans in Disney-esque uniforms. It is not something false, over-the-top or designed to illicit gratuities. It has been a method of adding value to a customers interactions with a business. These failing individuals are the faces of the business and when they mishandle our requests they damage the reputation of the company. Good service creates the illusion that a company cares and bad service shows the reality of a company that doesn't.
I think 'sorry' is the hardest word. I know for a fact some big companies instruct their staff to 'never say sorry' or use any words that could imply they are accepting responsibility! Apparently an apology of any kind implies fault is with the company rather than the customer. 'Thank you', when the exhasperated caller gives up, is still permitted at least. I believe it is this unwillingness to accept responsibility that is the source of the problem. Saying sorry implies a 'weakness' and bigger companies are inherently masculine, heterosexual monoliths that must never show vulnerability. The top dog won't apologise to the board, the board don't apologise to the managers, the managers don't apologise to the workers and the workers piss off the customers. Where is the humility, self depreciation, common manners and desire to help? Sadly they are lost and might not be making a return until the customers start a fight back.
But what are we fighting for? Well, companies need to better train staff, encourage lateral thinking and problem solving. They must ask their staff if they have the tools they need to keep the customers happy, satisfied and prepared to stay with the company. If they give the training but not the tools then we'll have an army of lovely, polite, helpful workers unable to actually do anything to help. Maybe a step in the right direction, but an inconsequential one in butt-ugly shoes.
And how do we start the revolution? We can force them to take notice by complaining at every opportunity and switching service when we are not satisfied. Don't put up with their shit and fuck their bollocks 12 month contracts. If you are unhappy with their shoddy service you can demand your way out of any contract. Trust me, I do it all the time. Be melodramatic in your rage and enjoy the fracas. Tell them you will seek legal advice, ask their name, take notes, say you'll write to watchdog, your MP, the police and the Daily Mail. Demand satisfaction and don't give up. Encourage everyone you know to ditch them and then go out and berrate them to total strangers on the street. If you blog, blog about them. If you tweet, tweet about them. Make noise and you will be heard.
To change a government you get one poxy vote in a school basement once every four years but to change a company that craps on you from the sky you can complain daily. You can take your hard earned cash and splash it with their competitors and you can rubbish their reputation to everyone you meet. Our glorious democratic right to complain about substandard, rancid customer service is endless. Revel in this one liberty and watch as angry consumer democracy brings about lasting change.
I have faith the day will come when I can call BT and hang up the phone happy, satisfied and calm. We can make this happen!