Here is the scenario: You have a problem or a need.
You phone or drop in on the people who get paid to help you with that problem or need.
You assume that the individual you are dealing with will be courteous and happy, or at the very least, willing, to assist you with your problem or need because that is their job.
There is no doubt that the mere idea, let alone expected practice of customer service has hit the endangered species list.
I can't tell you how many times I have sat at a table or waited for some time at a counter for an employee to recognize my presence, acknowledge it in some way or another and then proceed to take care of our order or need, only to be passed over for every Tom, Dick and Harry who came in after me.
Then of course there is the attitude.
Smiles have been replaced with scowls and courtesy has been replaced with impatience, annoyance and downright rudeness.
As disappointing as all of this is in the retail or service industry, the same behavior in other areas is a much more serious issue.
Think of the potential consequences where problems arise with someone's medical issues and are forgotten in someone else's "to do" pile, or when handling a financial issue with a bank or any situation where someone is waiting for money that they were counting on, but have not yet received, and when immediate action is required but not taken.
Lack of attention to the matter by the person who has the ability to address it could cause any number of serious problems for the person who is looking for answers and help.
I have had many conversations with individuals who are desperately seeking to have issues addressed with local agencies regarding such things as child support, youth services, elder issues, issues that require police or legal intervention (to name but a few) only to be met with a snarky and ineffectual response (if any at all) from disinterested and disconnected workers despite repeated pleas for action and proof thereof.
It has become so commonplace these days that I wonder if it hasn't been printed in employee manuals across the nation as part of everyone's job description.
"Do as little as you possibly can while being as miserable as you possibly can with the hope that the customer/client will go away so that you can get back to texting or playing Candy Crush."
Before someone decides to spit on my next order of cream chipped beef or decides to make an "oops" while cutting my hair, I want to be clear that there are some really excellent people out there doing the best they can with what little they have to work with and who will go out of their way to help you and do their job right.
These are the ones who care enough to step outside of their job description, stay late until they get an issue resolved and, if they do not know how or absolutely cannot help you, will find someone else who can.
These people are the gems of the service world and unfortunately there just aren't enough of these stellar individuals to go around.
So what are we to do?
I think the first step for the customer is to be nice.
A smile and a kind word can go a long way, as can keeping your emotions in check.
Have all of your ducks in a row. Cutbacks in staffing means more work on everyone's plates.
If you are organized and can get to the point, it makes it easier for people to address your needs.
If you aren't getting action, keep calling, emailing or writing and keep track of all of your communication efforts.
If need be, go above their heads until you finally get a response.
If someone does a good service to you, tell them so and send a letter to their superior informing them of such. It gives the person incentive to keep doing a good job.
If you deal with the public in your occupation, there are some things I think we all need to keep in mind:
Treat each customer/client precisely the way you would want to be treated if you were in that situation.
Be courteous, be attentive, be responsive and follow through.
How quickly would you want the oil man or the plumber to come out to make a repair if you had no heat or were experiencing flooding or lack of water?
As a note, my plumber once came out at midnight on Christmas Eve to give us heat when all I was expecting was to leave a message for him to come out hopefully sometime after Christmas Day.
How delighted and grateful were we to be warm and cozy as our children opened their gifts in the morning.
Imagine yourself being a single parent unable to make ends meet waiting anxiously for child support to start coming in.
How would you deal with a pending foreclosure and subsequent eviction for you and your family when all that is needed to prevent it is for someone to process paperwork in an accurate and timely fashion so that you can get the funds you need to keep a roof over their heads?
What type of a response would you want from school officials, youth services etc. if there was a serious problem involving your child?
If the town's drug dealers lived next to you and your children, how adamant would you be for someone, anyone to take immediate action?
These are just some examples but the message is the same across the board.
People need us to do our jobs and to do them well.
Quite frankly, they need us to care.
Perhaps it's time for all of us to take a look at how we do our jobs and see where we can improve.