Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Can I help who's next?- or- The downfall of customer service

In this country at least, "Can I help who's next?" has become a common phrase. It assaults my ears every time I hear it, like nails on a chalkboard. In the long form it would be, "Can I help who is next?" It's really two questions strung together, "Can I help?", "Who's next?" There are so many other ways to phrase it that would be fine. The two I just mentioned, "Can I help the next person in line?" or, how about that personal touch, "Can I help you?" (look directly at the person you are speaking to). Could customer service go that far? To actually make eye contact?
Another favorite of mine, is when I walk up to a cashier, and without looking up, they blurt out, "Can I help you sir?" Yes, I am a carpenter, I wear work boots, carpenter pants, and sweatshirt, or some other masculine drably colored garb. I'm not particularly curvy, and I have short hair, but I don't smell bad or flash any butt crack. (sorry guys, for that sweeping generalization)
I'm always a bit put off by this however because I feel that the "sir" is thrown in as a measure of respect, yet this person has not even focused on me, and correctly determined my gender. Once they look at me, they get all embarrassed and red, and apologize, and I have to wonder, how often does this happen to this cashier or salesperson? Because it happens to me a lot. I find the best way to respond to this, is simply smile, while burning a hole through their forehead using my evil-eye-heat-vision. Yes, I could dress in pink, and grow my hair, and put a scrunchy in it, but I'd rather be looked at by the people addressing me. Is that too much to ask?

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

I only shop online! Hehheeee. However, a few weeks ago went to the Hardware just to ask which building has aerated concrete in it. My pregnant sister and I were ignored as each man was served! THEN when finally at the right building, when we went to the front of the cue, we were directed into an office in a back room to ask the same question to the female Secretary!!! They don't even SERVE women!

RED MOJO said...

Anon, I guess I should be happy they mistake me for a dude, once they've offered help, they can't pretend they didn't see me!

I would assert myself right in there, with an "I believe I was next" if I was being ignored. My time is just as valuable as any other customers in there. GRRRR

Dorky Dad said...

Yeah, maybe you should shop online. Then you won't have to worry about all that bad customer service. Just really bad mail delivery.

kj said...

gggrrrrrr! i fume at the cashiers who don't look up, or don't stop talking, or who drop my change barely in the wide vincity of my hand. you've gotten me started, rm.

and i don't know how or why anyone would want to overlook your genuine smile.

RED MOJO said...

Dorky Dad, I do shop online quite a bit so I'm familiar with the pitfalls, but I can't really buy lumber and sheetrock etc. online, so I do have to bite the bullet pretty often. BTW I hope you don't mind, I swiped your festive cap! HOHOHO. Nice to see you here!

kj, I wasn't trying to insight a riot over there, but yes, I can tell you feel me. thank you!

Rachel Schell said...

first I must say....

working in customer service is the WORST! they are almost forced to become exactly what we can't stand about them. it's those horrible customers who ruin it for the rest of us.

as far as the "sir" comment. how awful, I think after a while it would become amusing if I were in your shoes. when I was a teenager I wore hats a lot (I was a tomboy) and I had quite a few people think I was a boy. I was mortified as any teenage girl would be, thinking I couldn't possibly be ugly enough to be mistaken as a boy (no offense to the men out there, but seriously). now that I've outgrown the hats it no longer happens and I have to look back and laugh about it.

RED MOJO said...

Rachel, I too spent some time working in customer service positions, I understand what you mean, but I also understand the point of it, and seems to be lost on so many who supposedly provide it. My favorite quote used to be "This job would be great if it weren't for the customers." Point being without them, there'd be no job!

Ces said...

Oh at least they speak English and you can understand them and I hope that they wash their hands, at least.

It's terrible what is happening to America. This globalization of our country has turned its people to generic beings without identities. It was always the American way to offer excellent customer service. That was eroded after the assault of so many people from so many cultures who refuse to assimilate and become Americans. Pretty soon we will just be another third world country.

RED MOJO said...

Ces, Your doom and gloom response is actually pretty accurate I'm afraid. But do you really think we'll go straight from first to third, skipping second completely?

Ces said...

In most border states some sections are already Third World. interms of their homes, streets, overcrowding, danger, crime and poverty. However, the lack of education and the promotion and maintenance of certain subclasses or subcultures as being dependent on government entitlements espoused by demagogues who use them as their powerbase is spreading this phenomena. Remember the hurricane disaster? It took an act of nature to uproot people from their homes where for years they have lived under poverty, filth and misery into the public's consciousness. If one visits a county hospital or public clinic, they may think they lived in a foreign country.

RED MOJO said...

Ces, You are absolutely right. I was being a little dismissive in my last response, because my post was about bad customer service experiences, not what's wrong with this country. You really don't want to get me started on that. Thats a multi-page post in which I would express very strong opinions offending many people, so I was trying to keep it light, and friendly! ;)

Ces said...

Sorry, I did not mean to rile you up. However, I have lived in a third world country. The governments in third world countries are always corrupt, I mean corrupt to the core. Nothing happens unless there are bribes. Policemen are bribed, government clerks are bribed. No one really cares for the people, everyone just think of how they can enrich themselves. The very few who care for the people and want to improve things are indeed few and overpowered by the misery, oppression and economic strife surrounding them. In such a society there is NO CUSTOMER SERVICE. Businesses think they offer a service and customers should be indebted to them. I went to the bank to exchange currencies and there was a long line. Thank God the bank was air-conditioned. There were three tellers and three lines where there were between 25 to 50 people in the queue. Two of the tellers decided that it was their coffee break which they took by simply leaving their posts and sitting around a table with other employees not far from the queues. No one took over their posts and half of the bank employees were on break. I was so enraged, but no one complained. People were very docile and they are used to this type of treatment. I was carrying my daughter. She was barely a year old and demanded that I speak to the manager. I told him that the situation was unacceptable, that these customers were supporting their bank by depositing their money and to make them wait for more than two hours is inconsiderate. They normally ignore these complaints and would ask a security guard to escort the complainant to the door but I was speaking English fluently and they surmised that I lived in the US. The manager instructed two other employees to take over the vacated posts. The customers smiled and one of them declared that it was their lucky day that someone “stateside” was there to complain, otherwise it was business as usual and customer service normally is non-existent. The tellers were rude. It is really sad because on a personal level, these people are very kind and gentle.

Anonymous said...

Is it December there yet? The month of cheer and joy?

RED MOJO said...

Ces, Have you considered switching to decafe?


Anon, Not yet, still November here for another 3 hours. Harumph!

Anonymous said...

What about now?

HO HO HO!!! I mean that in the nicest way ;)

RED MOJO said...

Anon, Yes, Now! And some Hos right back atcha. What a beautiful frigid blustery winter day. The birds are singing, the sky is blue. LALLALALLLaa. Oh, are you stil here?

Ces said...

Ha! I switched citizenship instead :-)

kj said...

ohmygod, you two. anon and i are going to have to cheer you both up!

meanwhile, since i am recovering from my little surgery, i will refrain from reading all these interesting comments in depth for a short while. then, of course, i will no doubt weigh in with my own opinions!

(the world is going to hell, but fortunately we're al/each actively chirping in to keep things honest)

(smile) (smile) (smile)

Anonymous said...

I'm here! The sun is scorching but intercepted by a light sea breeze ... setting up Christmas Tree today! We can't have real ones here because of the heat and they die too quickly. There is less vacuuming with fake ones. The birds are singing LALLALLALLAHHHHHHH ...

heartinsanfrancisco said...

No, it is not too much to ask, but underscores the total impersonality of customer disservice, as I call it.

Surely you are not the only person this happens to which further suggests that the same customer disservice reps must have blundered in the past, with OTHER people. So why, then, must they persist in assigning gender to their customers when a reasonable percentage of the time, they are going to be wrong?

I am rather curious as to which third world country your correspondent Ces lived in.

RED MOJO said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RED MOJO said...

Ces, Good move, kind of.

Kj, We'll be fine, kind of.

Anon, Sorry about that warm weather, kind of.

Heart, Thank you for totally understanding my point! Ces grew up in the Philippines, I'm not sure if that is where she is referring to here.

tsduff said...

Customer service takes an extra special type of giving heart. The customer is always right... but it is also important to acknowledge the customer! I've had some tough customers over the years - in banking, concessions, and phones to name a few. Most are genuinely nice folks, but a few really give you a run for your money. Grin and bear it I tell myself - perhaps they just lost their mother or their job... you never know. I think your experience is kind os funny (after the rudness of course!) but unthinkingly typical with our good old human race. Oh, and Red - PLEEEZE don;'t dress in pink with a scrunchie... LOL I"'m sure you would still look fabulous, but I'm just sayin... :D