Customer Disservice

You go into a shop where you can’t find what you’re looking for, so you find a member of staff and ask where the item is. They laugh in your face and say they haven’t stocked the product for three years! Three years!  How out of touch are you?! You politely argue that actually, you bought some just last summer, but all they do is shake their head, repeating that they don’t do it anymore as they walk off.

The above isn’t a recollection of a bad dream, but an example of the actual attitudes of many sales assistants that I have encountered in recent times. I’m no shrinking violet, but when someone speaks to me like that I feel small. It’s not just the rudeness, it’s being laughed at for your choice of product – something of such unpopularity that it is no longer made or sold.

Luckily for me, I only feel small for a few seconds after which I feel annoyed and angry. Not only has someone been rude and offhand with me, but they are not even good enough at their job to offer me a similar product in its place.

Sometimes when I’ve gone to ask for the extremely unpopular items that I like to use I’m simply met with blank faces, but it is far more insulting to be laughed or giggled at. As in “ha ha ha, you are such a freak coming in here and asking for something we don’t sell,” as if I’ve walked in to a chemist and asked for a pound of minced beef (a pound by the way, is 454g or nearly half a kg).

I have long wondered whether poor customer service skills are endemic to England. Although, things seem to improve a little once you’re in the Midlands or the north of the country – where it’s supposed to be grim, yet people are more likely to smile and be friendly to you.

The real reason behind the problem is probably that sales assistants aren’t trained to be polite and helpful and that politeness is no longer being universally instilled in the young. Yes, many parents do teach their kids to say please and thank you, but I’ve witnessed dozens of occasions in shops and services where rude children go unchastised for just not bothering to be polite. Maybe it cuts both ways, and if more customers were polite and friendly then the staff would be nicer in return. Not that that has worked for me.

Finding a shop or business in the UK where the staff are friendly and efficient has become a rarity that I am forced to comment on if I discover it. When I do experience good customer service I make a point of telling the staff – and manager if they are in evidence.

Good customer service makes me smile and improves my day. It has the effect of making me even more polite and friendly than I am already. Given that, as a nation, we seem to have descended even further into the Slough of Despond and travelled a greater distance along the road of moaning and misery, maybe improving customer service in shops, pubs and other customer-facing businesses would have a positive effect that doesn’t stop with satisfied customers?

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