For better service think three dimensionally

"Whatever happened to customer service?"

"Remember when customer service actually meant something?"

How many times have you heard or asked those questions recently?

Asking others for their experiences with regard to poor customer service, I find a deep and resonating common thread under the surface. As a customer, I am by definition one half of the customer service equation.

Consider the following:

First, a man pulled into a restaurant’s drive through lane behind several other cars and the one immediately in front of him seemed to be ordering for his entire neighborhood or office complex. Finally, when he pulled up to the speaker to place his order, the attendant was curt, perhaps even perceptively rude and he found himself offended, thinking that this person needs to "either get a better attitude or get another job, for crying out loud. What ever happened to a little pride in your work or to customer service?"

Second, a young woman heard what she thought was a new song on the radio (as I explained that this was actually from the 1980s) and she loved it. She went online to find it, and found that the song was not available alone but only with the entire content of the album. She purchased it for $9.99, downloaded it, and when it would not play correctly, she spent about two hours trying to resolve the situation herself and ultimately chatting online with someone overseas. "There was no real person to talk to, no 800 number, nothing. And I spent like two hours doing all of this."

So, where’s the common thread, you ask? Let me explain.

The man who pulled into the drive through was angry at whom? A bodiless voice he chose to interact with rather than take the extra three to four minutes to go inside and speak with, look into the eyes of an actual fellow human being.

I was actually the passenger in the car at the time this happened and asked him to pull in so I could check on something. Going in, I was greeted. The lady behind the counter had a smile on her face and we exchanged some pleasantries while she rang up my order. She even thanked me as she handed me my meal. Generally speaking, I find that service is far better inside a fast food restaurant than the drive through. Anyone else remember the line from Joe Pesci’s character in "Lethal Weapon?" Should we be surprised at the fact that a speaker is not as nice to us as a human?

The woman with the Cyndi Lauper CD? She chose to go online and deal with no one. With whom then was she angry the most? The site. "Really? The site?" I asked her. "How on Earth can you be angry at a site for not giving you the level of customer service you expect?"

By going down to the nearest CD retailer, she could have purchased the CD itself, spoken with a representative there, been greeted as she entered, and enjoyed some fresh air and time out of the house.

Remember passing notes back and forth in school to see if so-and-so liked you? You did so because to have asked them yourself would have opened you up to the possibility of humiliation and embarrassment if Sally or Jimmy said no. It is no different as adults.

We should expect coldness from a stranger who has only his or her computer screen to look at. After all, that computer monitor they’re viewing will be discarded eventually. It would be easy to forget that there is a person on the other end of the Internet. The computer I view right now is something I purchased, but the person from whom I take an order at a fast food restaurant, or whom I show the location of a CD is a person just like me. I also know he likes McNuggets over a burger and she likes 1980s pop and is surprised by it.

Only with human interaction can a sense of servitude bloom, or at least have that possibility. We can have a seed we hope will take root and blossom some day, but if we keep it in a box hidden away at the top of our closet, can we then be surprised if it never does? When we remove simple interaction with our fellow man, how can we then be shocked at a lack of humility or kindness?

So go to the mall, enter the restaurant, withdraw your money at the teller counter, see a movie at the theater and don’t forget that when you are the customer, you are still half of customer service. Three dimensional people are better. Trust me.

Benjamin Johnson is a Groveport resident.

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