I am confused with the twenty-first century’s take on customer service. It seems to be an approach-avoidance kind of thing.
First, the approach. Nowadays if one has a face-to-face communication with a server or a clerk or a barista, there follows a list of questions aimed at making the experience personal. What kind of salad dressing do I want. On the salad or on the side? Do I want it first or with my entrée?
This morning a grocery check-out clerk wanted to know how my day was going so far (How does one really answer this appropriately?), if I found everything I wanted, and then commented on the firmness of the tomato and the size of canned Chinese veggies I bought. The barista at the same store wanted to know if I preferred dark chocolate, white chocolate, or milk chocolate in my mocha along with real whipped cream or the non-fat variety. The bank clerk wanted to know what my plans were for the evening and said, “Thanks, Anne” as I left.
I believe all this is an attempt to make each customer feel special. But do I need to feel special when I’m ordering coffee or making a deposit? Really?
At the same time, when I do have a particular issue and want to communicate with a human, there are a variety of hoops to jump through. Telephone menus are always being changed and the caller is encouraged to listen to the entire thing before making a selection. If I call the phone company or the cable company, I’m told I’ll get faster service by going to the website in question.
I already pay bills online and can apply for a mortgage, a credit card, or a club membership that way. I can make dinner, airline, and hotel reservations . . . and cancel them too.
The prevailing philosophy seems to be that real problems, like disputing a credit card charge or understanding an item on a bank statement, are resolved at arm’s length while the more mundane, like dark or light chocolate, has become the standard for what we see as customer service.
I think I’m becoming a curmudgeon with all this.