It at first seems a little bit ironic, when we are in the grip of a recession and the resultant mass unemployment, that people seem so keen to play Russian roulette with their livelihoods but, in actual fact, the two are probably interrelated. I am not a complainer, I prefer to vote with my pocket but some of the individuals I have encountered have not only been rude and unhelpful but downright combative. They must be in conflict daily and I am sure their days of employment are probably numbered.
This week alone I have found myself reeling from the spectacularly bad service provided by my mobile phone provider. I had occasion to call their customer services when my phone inexplicably stopped working. I am approaching the end of my contract and foolishly imagined that I might be wooed into extending it with pleasant, helpful advice. Sadly that wasn’t to be and when the young man dealing with my enquiry demanded, “What do you want me to do about it?” I knew my days with that particular company were coming to a close.
I have no doubt that the young man in question hates his job; minimum wage and battery hen style conditions in a call centre. A consequence of this will be that he not only hates the company by whom he is employed but by extension all its customers as well, who no doubt verbally abuse him for a large proportion of his day. The recession it seems to me will have made this young man’s plight worse in two ways.
Firstly it has created a climate where the emphasis is on short term profit and the labour force is seen as disposable. Companies expect employees to be grateful for minimum wage and whatever crumbs they throw at them, rationalising that it’s better than the dole queue and there is probably a long line of people waiting to fill any positions that become available. Worker’s rights are constantly being eroded as the government and media perpetuate anti-union rhetoric and a fear of unemployment makes people
afraid to rock the boat.
This is exacerbated by the fact that, as companies vie for custom and no business it seems is safe from liquidation, the public become infused with their own sense of power. The idea that they can choose to invest or withhold their custom can be a heady thing and it doesn’t always bring out the best in people. It can lead to them treating sales assistants or customer sales advisors as though they were somehow inferior beings. This in turn strengthens the vicious circle of abuse that sees the quality of customer service deteriorate even further.
It’s long been known that the most industrious work force is a happy work force but why do so many companies choose to ignore this. If you walk into any shop you can tell within minutes what kind of working environment it is from both the demeanour and attitude of the employees. I am sure I can’t be the only consumer who is more inclined to part with my money when I am treated well by happy, smiling people; people who don’t have the haunted look of someone in abject misery or the scary manic look of someone who has been indoctrinated by the company religion.
Having said all this sometimes appalling customer service can be refreshingly hilarious. The best example of this I have ever seen was when queuing behind a particularly fussy and demanding woman in Costa Coffee. After inspecting every sandwich she asked the bored and petulant girl who was serving if there were any gluten free ones. Barely hiding her contempt the girl replied in the negative to which the woman replied, “But they have them in Starbucks.” The girl didn’t disappoint when she uttered the
very words I was thinking.
“Well go to Starbucks then!”