I grew up in a truly different world. Born in the fifties, life was simpler and people seemed kinder and more eager to help each other. Perhaps I’m looking back at it through rose-colored memories but I do know that some things were decidedly better. Please see “Final Note” at the end of this column about Verizon – my #1 pick for WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE
For instance, when going to a gas station, customers would be greeted by a uniformed gas station attendant – usually a male adult (the gender isn’t my point but it was more men than women in the workforce then) – who would come up to the driver’s side window and ask what grade of gas you would like him to pump for you. He’d also ask if you wanted him to check your oil level, tire pressure, and he’d clean your windshield. ALL as part of their “service.”
Yes, “service” had a much different meaning in those “good ol’ days” than the lack of it does today. There were quaint things called “shoe stores” in which shoe salesman would greet their customers by name (the regulars). Again, most were men, and most were dressed in a shirt and tie. They’d greet you; ask about your family, and what you wanted. They’d know your shoe size, your preferences for particular brands, and they’d slip on the shoes with a shoehorn on your feet. Few of these “professionals” pushed or did hard selling. You felt served, appreciated, and respected.
I remember our favorite department store. It was The May Company and their flagship store was the largest single building in Los Angeles for many years and had a very distinctive art deco appearance. You’d go into that store and elevator operators would ask you what floor you wanted to go to and announce “Men’s furnishings, ladies lingerie” or the like as you landed on each floor. They were uniformed.
When you entered ANY department you were greeted with a smile by a professional salesperson with a simple, “May I help you?” They usually knew where EVERYTHING was in their department and most everything in the store. Again, the shopping experience was pleasant and the customer was treated like someone of value, let alone treated with respect and courtesy.
What is it like TODAY when you go to the gas station, Target, or Walmart, and are there any neighborhood shoe stores left, let alone neighborhood bookstores?
What about the need for customer service with your “utilities” which, in my childhood, comprised of gas and electric, water, and a phone. One could call ANY of these “utilities” and quickly get an English-speaking, polite, representative who would quickly help you with most ANY problem. If the problem necessitated a home visit, it would be quickly scheduled and the time honored. How quaint. How old-fashioned.
Recently, I had the misfortune of trying REPEATEDLY to get a bill issue solved with Verizon (Wireless). It was a Kafkaesque nightmare of phone menu options, disconnected calls, and robotic people repeating scripted lines with NO ability to make an independent decision to help me. I literally spent HOURS on the phone with them. I finally gave up, paid their extortion fee (literally what it was), and sincerely hope I NEVER have to deal with them again.
I’ve had similar experiences with so many other companies and so many of these are relative necessities in today’s world.
Then, there are the government “agencies” that we taxpayers fund and are “supposed” to be working for us. As they say in Brooklyn “forgettaboutit.” My son got into a small car accident and the police arrived to “investigate.” A police report was filed. Our insurance asked to see said “police report.” Was it readily available? NO. Was it free when it was available? NO. We had to pay $25 and give them a self-addresses stamped envelope and it took two months to get it.
I got a toll-road ticket not so long ago. Evidently, the “ticket” was lost in the mail because it’s one of those automated photo-tickets. I called the number on the form but could NEVER get an answer. I was assessed late penalties and other such fees for a $3.40 fine. Total cost to get rid of it: $108. Could I get ANYONE to respond to anything from an email or a phone call? You know the answer.
Most people who work in customer service, truly a misnomer these days, do not utter the words, “May I help you”. Most companies will not allow you easy access to a representative and getting anyone to creatively work with a customer to solve a problem is impossible. It’s a sad state of affairs and I do long for those simpler days…
Final Note: Verizon now TOPS my list of extremely bad customer service PLUS they’ve added extortion to their lousy habits as I’ve been UNABLE to close my account for eight months! After the “last” fee I paid which was noted in this column earlier, I received another bill and began the entire process over again. I was promised a call-back from a supervisor but have yet to receive it! I’ve been regularly lied to after paying “final” fees repeatedly. I actually have NO IDEA how to get them off my back!