I had an embarrassing accidental shoplifting experience a few years ago. I had paid for my groceries, and had my cart halfway to my car, when I realized I’d forgotten to tell the cashier about the two cases of coke on the bottom of my cart. I quickly hustled back in to right the wrong.
I explained to the (different) cashier what had happened, and to my surprise, her only significant reaction was wanting to find out which cashier had missed the items. She was quite intent on finding out, and not happy when I professed to not remembering which person it was.
So here I was, a customer demonstrating his integrity and loyalty to the store, getting nothing more than a guilt trip for not ratting out one of the other employees. It’s not like I was expecting someone to say “gee, thanks for not shoplifting,” but a simple acknowledgement would have been nice.
My point is that this was a classic customer service opportunity. A chance to make an embarrassed customer feel good. It would have taken less than a couple of seconds, but it was one of those moments in time that too many people in the customer service business just seem to miss. Why is this?
So many of these things – saying ‘thank you,’ ‘excuse me,’ ‘can I help you with that?’ ‘thanks for coming in?’ etc. – are just plain, obvious courtesies. Basic etiquette, or ‘common sense,’ some would call it. Where the heck did they go?
“It’s this new generation!” I’ve heard many a boomer and Gen X-er proclaim, “They have no sense of being polite!” Yeah, I’m not so sure of that. We see this type of discourteous behavior everywhere we go – and it seems to be neither gender nor age specific.
I actually have some fun asking Boomers and Xers that, if they are correct about it being the Millennials with all the behavioral issues, who’s really to blame? After all, who should have taught them this stuff? Suddenly the finger comes full circle, and points right back at us.
Narcissism and Customer Service Don’t Mix
The whole thing points to the one, glaring, overriding reason why outstanding customer service continues to be a struggle for most companies and individuals. We have become so narcissistic – so focused on our own needs, so demanding of our own entitlements, so…oblivious… to the needs of the people around us, that the whole concept of customer service no longer comes naturally.
How do we get it back? Maybe it’s time we re-introduce etiquette and protocol into our school curriculum. Teach our kids what polite means – or used to mean back in a less self-centered age. Or, perhaps a better question is, do we really care?