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When Companies Think They Are Too Smart for Customer Service…

Customer service is the smartest thing companies can do to build a product name and company reputation…until they think they are smarter than the rest of us.

When companies think they are smarter than their customers it’s time to time customers to learn how not to play their game. That’s right, I said it. We need to train customers; they just aren’t savvy enough. Actually, they probably are, but we don’t have the time to fight the companies taking advantage of us. We shouldn’t have to, but our apparent attempts at teaching companies is either falling on deaf ears or is being ignored–BECAUSE WE ARE STILL BUYING THEIR PRODUCTS!

I’m big on customer service. It’s important. It’s the smartest thing companies can do to build a product name and company reputation…until they think they are smarter than the rest of us.

I am about to embark on a bit of rant, as if you couldn’t tell. I generally write about training and development issues here and I’m more of a lecturer than a ranter–although my rants seem to be popular, too. Maybe that’s because rants are popular.

Anyway here goes:

I’m sure no one here has ever experienced bad customer service. No one has ever felt the employee didn’t want to be there or look you in the face. There’s, of course, something very wrong with this picture. I walk into this joint, see, and no one raises an eye, see, and I notice a clipboard with names on it, see. Nobody “sees” me. Even my name that I first wrote in longhand (not horrible longhand I have to say) is ignored because an employee (I really just want to call them a helper because an employee works for a living) does not want to mispronounce a name not clearly written. The solution: ignore it. Move on to the next one–the one in block print so you will only be viewed as a stellar communicator. One pissed consumer. If I must sign in, then I must need this company more than they need me because I must wait until it is convenient for them to acknowledge my paying presence.

Customer service should not be based on my ability to pay for your service or even my existing account, which may put others to shame. I am nothing more than a customer; treat me like one. Forget my large paying presence, I might add, because I have a family contract with them that I pay monthly, which I must pay large fees to get out of a contract if I am not getting the service promised. I only mention this because of lost potential.

Not that someone should jump up because I am a long-term, high-paying customer–no that would be like the airlines. This is only cell phone service so there is no need to acknowledge a six phone full-service presence. We’ll come back. If not others–and they have us with a contract so we can buy nicer phones with so much stuff we don’t want and demos we don’t want.

So, it’s not the airlines so no special privileges, and if the company enters into contract negotiations to build more towers, provide competitive phones we’ll cancel what extra niceties you have now. Each new contract is a new time to take you for more…until we learn how to work your system or other systems stop going along with your game and offer customers what they want and treat them right. Only then you’ll go away or change.

The companies get theirs in the end, but not after they have taken us for all we are willing to pay them for products we may not want, contracts we feel obliged to buy because we don’t have the product or service guarantees that used to convince us the products and services were worth it in the first place. I hate buying a guarantee my freezer is not going to die on me in more than 90 days or even a year. Doesn’t say much for our ability to build or produce quality, but it does say a lot for our salesmanship. Or, our own stupidity as customers.

I think we need some training because the big business folks are taking advantage of us. They are just asking for government regulation, but in this economy and the pressure to make smaller government it won’t happen for a while. Big business knows this. So, make millions, billions while you can. You certainly are contributing to making this economy even weaker, but at your CEO’s pay level, does he care?

Now I will admit this is not every company is out to screw you. Those that try harder to let me know they care what I think, that they’ll cut me an occasional break on policy, they are telling me I am a customer worth having. Customer loyalty is not what it used to be. Consumer websites are telling us how to get the most of our money, but the companies are still taking advantage when they can and give capitalism a bad name. We are turning into our own third-world with greedy attitudes; if we are indeed, I hope we are minus the corruption, but greed does motivate that possibility.

All that’s left is to educate the consumer to see that customer service is designed for the company first, and we’re along for the ride. The company is smarter than us, right? They can tell us how we should spend money and what we should want to buy. The problem really is that they do. It is number one on some sales pitches, “Make someone need your product!” Sales has become almost a dirty word because customer service has really left the table like Elvis has left the building, not to be seen again.

I know everyone has customer service horror stories. I could go on forever. I don’t know how exactly we could manage to train all customers to be smart customers. It would be quite an undertaking and who would pay for it. Granted we all pay now–just not for the training, but for the opportunity to be fleeced.

We would all try to do some training though, I think. Honorable people we are. We could do it for free; of course, there would be access to our websites and our books–our services. Seriously… Honestly… We could hold seminars, and I’m sure some innovative trainers will do that. Just make sure you ask a lot of questions and don’t buy a contract. We could go viral on the Internet and complain. Isn’t that already being done. Wish I could be a catalyst for more to happen. Maybe if we all work together and not take it anymore. Tell the big guys what we think, tell them what we don’t want and aren’t willing to pay for. Even the cell phone companies have contract-free programs, but you pay full price for the phone that will be obsolete in a year. Gotcha still.

I want a laptop I can type comfortably on–not the usual flat keyboard. I’ve seen organic add-ons, but don’t you think that would have been one of the first adaptations in the product evolution? Makes you wonder if they thought it would limit sales. Most people only use it for typing–even searching the Internet. I’d venture a guess that 90 percent of the hardware and software is not used except as a feature must pay for. Who cares if you use them after you leave the store or the online site where you bought it. Of course, the custom option still exists…pay extra for that. That’s not just computers. Some things stay rather basic–like toilets, but you can get a fancy one if you like–gilded.

Trainers unite and train customers. Someone has to do it. One company I know even uses that idea to sell customers on the fact their particular store is not a discount store but a store that has so many connections it can give you the best deal. If you buy there, they give you credit for being an educated consumer. Brilliant strategy, sounds good and they win. Get on those company web sites and tell companies what you think. Boycotts are lovely this time of year–just before Christmas, but companies aren’t terribly worried with all the diversification.

End of rant. Happy training from the Cave Man. Let’s get back to the beginning when life was hard but fair.

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