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Customer Service Is Extinct
Jimmy Moore
September 13, 2002

Fifty years ago, the motto of most businesses in America was “the customer is always right.”

In 2002, that longstanding and cherished motto has slowly evolved into a variation on the theme of “what the *%#$ do you want?”

Just in case you haven’t noticed it lately, customer service is extinct! In just about every sector of society, the sentiment you’re going to get from most people you encounter is WHO CARES! While some people may want to blame corporate corruption for causing our nation's financial condition to be on shaky ground, my theory is that the general lack of focus on the customer from most businesses is what is stifling our economy in the United States.

Why would anyone want to spend their hard-earned dollars on shoddy service? I sure don’t! People deserve to be treated like they are valuable when they walk into a business. Regardless of what is being sold, the customer needs to be greeted with a friendly smile, treated with respect and honor and welcomed back EVERY SINGLE TIME. Period. That’s just good basic business sense that has somehow become a thing of the past in recent years.

Because there are so many different areas that customer service has become a real problem, I will only focus on one specific business sector. It is with my biggest pet peeve in terms of customer service: the fast food industry! I will refrain from using the names of the restaurants because that is not really relevant (although you may be able to figure them out if you have visited any of them in the past few years). The overriding problem with customer service in fast food runs rampant throughout Spartanburg, South Carolina and America.

Here are just a few personal examples of my experiences with fast food joints:

There is one popular fast food restaurant I used to visit pretty often. I would order the exact same meal EVERY TIME I visited the restaurant. It was a rather simple 2 item order with only one request for an additional topping for one of the items I ordered. In ten consecutive visits to the same restaurant, my order was NEVER made correctly. When I brought it to the attention of the manager of the restaurant one time, she said to me “so, you want us to make you another one?” Hello?!?! Is there anyone home upstairs?!?! I’d like to get my simple two item order made correctly every time I order it, thank you very much. Is that too much to ask for?

Then there is the popular pizza place I sometimes like to go to. I often walk into the store with the front counter vacated. There are people in the back who “look” busy as I am standing there for several minutes. Not a single one of them ever looks my way and says “I’ll be right with you.” No, they would rather have me stand there like an idiot waiting on them! When someone finally does come to the register to take my order, there is not a smile to greet me as a good paying customer. All I get from the order taker is “whaddyawant?!”

In fact, on one recent visit, I literally stood within three feet of two employees having a personal conversation at the front counter as I stood there watching them talk to each other. As the conversation went back and forth between them, I moved my head to face the person speaking trying to get their attention. After five minutes of this had passed, one of them suddenly turns to me and says “so, like, are you ready to order something yet?” I retorted back to the young employee “well, I have been ready for the past five minutes!!!” If it weren’t for the low price of the pizza at this place, I would NEVER go back there again.

My wife and I used to enjoy going to another popular fast food place for a “quick” breakfast on the way to work. However, on just about every visit to this restaurant’s drive-thru, we would have to wait at least 20 minutes for our order. To make matters worse, the restaurant was NEVER BUSY (which should have been our first clue that we would not have a very good experience)! And the lack of any personality from the people running the drive-thru made the wait seem that much worse. I realize these people usually only make a little over minimum wage, but they need to show some personal initiative in the area of customer service if they ever hope to move up the ladder in their careers! If this is supposed to be “fast” food, then I would sure hate to see what “slow” food would be like!!!

One final example of a customer service problem with a food place is a popular buffet establishment. There is a clearly written sign at the front register that states “if we don’t give you a receipt, then your meal is free.” The wording underneath this phrase on the sign explained the details of the deal. It said that if you do not receive a receipt for your meal, then your money would be refunded for the meal you paid for and you will receive complimentary coupons for every member of your party on your next visit. It’s a pretty simple offer for just about anyone to understand. That is, of course, unless you are the manager of this place.

I visited the restaurant with my wife a few months ago. After we sat down to eat, I noticed that I did not receive a receipt for the meal we had purchased. Upon this delightful discovery (because I had remembered reading the sign at the front), I marched to the front register and inquired with the manager about getting my money back and obtaining the certificates for a free meal on my next visit. The man who did not speak English very well looked at me dumbfounded and speechless for a very long time after my inquiry. When I proceeded to show him the sign that clearly stated that I should have received what I asked for, he only shook his head in disagreement and said that he was not aware of the promotion. HUH?!?! What is there for the manager to be aware of? It was right there in front of his eyeballs exactly what he needed to do! If he was a good manager, then he should have done the right thing and honored my request. Unfortunately, he chose to undermine the customer as I have come to expect again and again!

I could go on and on with similar stories detailing the demise of customer service. It is a sad commentary on all Americans that we have allowed something as simple as good customer service to be denigrated into what it has become today.

While there are pockets of excellence in customer service out there (you usually have to hunt for them, pay extra for it or wait for it), the general principle we have become accustomed to is poor service. Shouldn't we EXPECT good customer service? Isn't that why we pay them money for what we get?

Rather than accepting poor customer service as the norm, we need to make our voices be heard. If you get bad service from a business, then let the corporate office of that business know how you feel. There are a couple of excellent websites that give you the tools you need to express your feelings about virtually ANY business out there. They are http://www.planetfeedback.com and http://www.complaints.com. You will be doing those businesses you enjoy a very big favor by sharing with them your experiences.

Do you have any stories of poor customer service that you would like to share with everyone? Can anyone disprove my assertion that customer service is extinct?

Click on the COMMENT link and tell us what you think!

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