The True Cost of Rudeness

by Mr. Cheap

I’m often struck by how rude people in customer service positions are.  I understand when people say “they have a tough job and they get fed up with it just like anyone else”, but ultimately if it’s the ENTIRE point of someone’s job to interact with the public, shouldn’t they stay nice (or at the very least neutral)?

Bell is AWFUL as a company, and the worst experience I had was when no one showed up for a scheduled installation, I called their customer support and a mouthy representative kept obnoxiously telling me that it wasn’t in his computer system, so the best he could do was treat me like a brand new customer and schedule an installation 2 weeks later.  I finally had had enough of him, asked for a supervisor, and he refused!  Smoke was coming out of my ears at that point.  There are *SO* many reasons to hate Bell, but this one incident always comes to mind when I think of the company.  I suspect that the true cost of lost business is not realized by companies when a customer is treated rudely and never returns.

I ate at a local buffet restaurant this week, and was left standing at the door while one waitress told me to wait and then went to fill up water glasses (she continued to be abrupt with me throughout the meal) and the owner shoveled food down her throat and stared at me like I was some kind of science experiment.  Most of the food items in the buffet line were left empty while I was eating and I was left standing at the till waiting to pay.  At the end when I didn’t tip, the waitress looked at my credit card receipt, huffed and stormed off.  I’m never eating at this restaurant again.

I’ve gotten the MBNA Mastercard that Henry recommended and I LOVE it!  There was a problem with my first payment and I called up to ask them to reverse the fees and interest that was charged.  Ultimately I was at fault, so I would have been fine if they didn’t reverse them (but they did, thanks MBNA!).  The woman who reversed them was quite rude to me however, which seems to defeat the whole purpose of doing something nice for a customer (“We’ll give you a refund to ensure your loyalty, but I want you to know that I hate you SO MUCH.”)  All the work that was put into offering an outstanding card to the Canadian public was undermined by one rep having a bad day.

I get that no business WANTS their employees to be rude.  I think they turn a blind eye to it to a self-destructive degree.

I was out for coffee with some friends, all of whom had worked in customer service.  They related, with great mirth, stories of pretending to be one another’s supervisor for angry customers and how they would provide (or deny) services based on how nice the customer was to them.  Apparently it has gotten to the point that instead of reps behaving professionally to us, we have to suck up to them to get them to do their jobs.

For better or worse, customer service reps are the face of a company that the public interacts with.  It’s difficult for us to distinguish between one employee mistreating us and the company mistreating us.  I think the only way businesses get away with this is that it’s so pervasive that customers don’t have any alternative.  When it’s possible and an employee has been particularly unpleasant to me, I try my best to shop elsewhere.  Often I run out of companies to do business with.  If one company could keep their reps providing a consistent experience, eventually they would get all the customers like me.

One way I think a business should deal with this is to invest time, as part of the training, in the proper way to interact with customers.  Go through, in detail, what is an appropriate reaction and what isn’t.  After the training when the employee is working, monitor this interaction and correct them as soon as possible after they’ve been rude to a customer.  If a restaurant takes the attitude “Oh-well, she may be rude to customers but at least she shows up on time for work…” I think there’s a long term trend, as more customers get turned off, that will accumulate and become VERY harmful.  It’s kind of like reverse marketing, instead of getting new customers, you lose existing ones.

I watched a documentary Up The Yangtze (it’s great if you get the chance to see it) and there was one scene that showed how the cruise ship trained its staff to interact with Canadians.  I had a good laugh when they were told not to tell Canadians they’re fat or talk about Quebec.  Many workers in Canada would be offended if part of their training was interpersonal instruction that is this specific, but from my  shopping experiences it’s necessary!

I realize complaining about poor manners is more a sign that I’m getting old than anything.  So if nothing can be done about customer service reps, at least get those damn teenagers off of my lawn!!!

What sort of rude experiences have you had dealing with businesses?  Do you think putting up with it is just a part of modern living or can something be done?  What are your thoughts on “kids these days”?

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