Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Customer is always right?

My mind has been lots of places these last few days but last night at work and on the way home I thought about the saying "The customer is always right." I found on Wikipedia this morning that the phrase is over 100 years old. Said first by Marshal Field or Harry Gordon Selfridge who worked for Marshal Field department stores and later started his own department store in London. 

Now I find this tidbit of information to be ironic. These same two fellows were the first people to use the __Days left until Christmas countdown in advertising. This is AMAZING that the same guy who said to make the customer first also initiated the mad dash for December 25. If you do not find this to be a ironic you have probably never worked in Customer Service or Retail. 

People who don't work with customers that push paper or whatever it is that people do in dark cubicles at the end of the hall where only lost people stop and say hello may never have the opportunity to be face to face with their adversary, sorry I mean customer. I think that people that do not have contact with the person on the other end of their transaction are less likely to feel compassion for them or empathize with the customers situation can easily deny a mortgage or insurance claim. There is no face attached to the piece of paper no heart or soul shown. Same can be said when the customer receives back the claim that was denied or the foreclosure order. There is no heart or soul exposed. Maybe that is why we assume the person who made the decision is heartless or has no soul of their own. I know I can be easily side tracked but I am getting somewhere. I can understand that it could be easier to make a decision based solely on the facts if you do not have to look the person in the face or hear their disappointment over the phone. So this blog is for you. Those who think you are always right and know there are only 24 days left until Christmas.

Please keep in mind that as you stand on the side of the counter closest to the door or are on the end of the phone that it has somehow become acceptable for you to hang up abruptly on the person trying to assist you that the person on the enclosed side of the counter and on the end of the phone that they are told to be polite to the customer that person to has a heart and a soul. They have feelings and they do understand your situation. They have dealt with many of you before and will help many more after you are gone.

I know that on my end of the phone I do not know that your kids are sick and you do rely on your home phone service to leave them home alone while you go to work because you can not afford to take off work. I know you are frustrated that I told you that you will have to wait a day and a half for a technician because we are backed up because of the holiday last week. I will try to accommodate your availability but I do have restraints that the company mandates but they do give me the leeway to break the rules to help you. But sometimes even then. Even after all that I have tried and my years of experience I can not make something work that is broke all the time. Now, you have been fine but your wife in the background is furious and yelling. Not sure why but I try to understand her frustration.  As she takes the phone from you and starts yelling at me I am still trying to be understanding and sympathetic and accommodating. I am now being cussed at. Sworn at. Screamed at. Now for you the mortgage processor or insurance adjuster that does not ever have the benefit of this sort of transaction let me tell you to be on my end of the phone SUCKS.

I will now flip the coin for you. I came to work today because I would feel guilty to take time off from work even though yes, my mom did have a stroke over the holiday weekend and yes, she is in the hospital but she is doing so much better than on Saturday when I could not understand a word she said. My brother went to work today even though he had to call 911 after having trouble getting her to respond after taking a face plant on the back patio. My sisters all went to work as well after dealing with the stress of this situation on our holiday weekend as well. Ironically we all work in the public. My brother does not have as much contact as the rest of us but he is out in the world dealing with the people that get in the way of his lawnmower or blower. But my sisters and I put on the happy face and did our job. We all help people all day long in different jobs but we are on the side of the counter that we can not easily walk away from the situation. 

So let me get back to where I was going. I remember lots of customers by their situations. I do not remember names or any personal information. My head hits the delete button as soon as the information passes through my ears and past my eyes. I only mentioned once last night that my mom was in the hospital. Don't remember anything about the lady but she was sweet and she asked my moms first name. I told her Jeanne. She said, "I will say a prayer for your mom tonight". As the tears welled up in my eyes I finished that call and moved on to the next. That is my job.

But time after time last night I ran into people that were livid about their services not working. This is not unique to my line of work or in retail.  In retail establishments all across the country there were people that saw an ad in the paper for a flat screen TV for $98. Limited quantities. This to me says get there early or you may not get a TV. If I do not get the price I move on. If it was life or death I would have been standing in the store at 4AM when the sale started. But no TV is that important to me. No object is that important to me. I always keep in mind my roots on the back side of the counter and try not to be the customer that is letting loose on the cashier or the agent on the phone. I am not perfect and I have done it. It was probably 6 months ago and I could not deal with one more thing and a person called me and told me I that what I believed to be so as far as my service went was not the case. I did yell and I did cry and I did say I am sorry and I do not mean to be this customer and I need to hang up. The guy gave me his number and said to call him back. I have never called back. Not because I am embarrassed but because I still do not want to deal with the issue and it still makes me mad. 

Alright so where is all this mumbo jumbo going. There are 24 days left until Christmas. That is a fact. The objects which you wish to give your friends and family members do not replace love nor does the dollar amount of the gift prove their value.  So keep all of that in perspective and value the time that you spend with your friends and family these next few weeks. You do not know when one of the people that means the most may be gone. You do not know what the person on the other side of the counter or on the other end of the phone is going through. I am not expecting to undo a 100 years of misinformation in one Christmas Season. But I would like to see each of you stop and say Thanks to the person that helps you find that perfect object and cashier that rings you up. Maybe stop and drop some change in the Salvation Army's bucket instead of walking by complaining of the obnoxious bell. Be thankful for the work they do. The people they help are thankful for your donations even though they do not see your face and can not shake your hand and let you know personally. They know that whomever made the donation must be a generous, compassionate human being. 

So I will turn that upside down on you. When you call and ask for help or walk into a retail establishment imagine that you are the person in need and the agent on the phone or the cashier or store associate is the generous, compassionate human being that just want you to be well. And they are willing to give their last few cents or their knowledge to help you get what you need to make you happy and healthy and keep you safe. 

That is what the customer is always right means to me. 

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