Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Friday, September 24, 2004

Customer Sycophancy
Written by: Goemagog

I had some minor dealings recently with a large company which shall remain unnamed, but not unlinked, and the matter of customer service was brought up. I'm rarely happy with the level of customer service from companies I deal with. Usually it's fine if it's a store, but everyone else seems to take a business school approach. The business school approach being to redefine it so that you couldn't possible be bad at it and give yourself awards for "excellence". There are plenty of such awards that businesses with no concept of customer service give each other for good customer service. Governmental departments do this too, like the Office of Surface Mining, so they don't get their award confused with any customer service awards for dealing with non-surface mining.

The problem is that most people don't want customer service. Take Tweety... FOR EXAMPLE!

All I have to say to those Verizon motherfuckers is this: When I've been sitting on hold for over an hour, I don't want to hear "I can't help you." All I want to hear is "How hard would you like me to apply my tongue to your genital region? A light flicking movement, or hard thrusts?"

from here, at the very bottom.

Most companies believe that their customer service department is there to provide all of their customer service. They're wrong. Companies exist to make money off of goods and services. Goods are physical products, everything else is a service. Plumbers don't make pipes, but they'll fix them for you, so they provide a service. A service to their customers. Customer service. Plumbers understand that the service they provide to their customers is what they are getting paid for. Most small businesses have some grasp of this. Large companies don't.

Large companies seem to base their customer service plans on most of the company making products or providing services, while their customer service department is really just for logging complains. They're not there to help you, they're not there to solve problems, they're not there to provide a service. They're there to deflect criticism from everyone else at the company. Everyone else at the company, from the top managers to the janitors, then assumes that because there is a customer service department, everyone outside that department shouldn't have to deal with customers at all. People who are forced by their job to actually deal with customers are chosen by their 'customer service' skills of deflection and avoidance. Apologize, grovel, be obsequious, etc. Their customer interaction, like the 'customer service' people, is based on calming the angry customers before sending them away.

Whenever companies get complaints about their poor customer service, they tend to assume that it's because the 'customer service' department isn't being apologetic enough. They rarely question the quality of the services they provide to their customers, instead lecturing their employees on the importance of providing good customer service through tongue thrusting. Why?

Because most of the people complaining about bad customer service have had problems with bad customer service and are not happy about it. Providing decent customer service is hard, so companies prefer the easier path of paying people to get trampled on by those angry customers. If a plumber charged you a huge amount of money but did nothing useful, responding to your complains by letting you kick their dog, you'd probably feel better but still need someone to provide the original service. That desire to see someone else suffer, be it a dog or an outsourced customer service rep, clouds our judgment and makes us lose sight of the original goal. The goal of most customer service is not to make you feel better, but to provide a service, and no amount of groveling can substitute for that.

There are two industries in which the service is supposed to make you feel better or empowered, healthcare and prostitution. Everyone else is out of their field.

UPDATE: I like making updates. Plus, entertainment is an industry whose service usually involved people's mood.

It also occured to me that maybe the problem is much like 'Marketing Myopia' in that many people in a company don't understand what their function there is. The problem might go away if customers paid attention to what services they actually wanted from any given company. So pay attention!

Goe, wishes Tweety came back.

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