When you go through a McDonald’s drive through, before you get to place an order there is about an 80% chance you will listen to a recording asking you if you would like to buy something different. Not that the company is being particularly helpful, but marketing has spotted a moment when you must listen to an advert. You might not want to listen to an advert. Sorry – not an option. And since in modern marketing, customers are there to be exploited, making a complaint to your server is never, ever, going to make it back to head office.
A Honda car salesman in a TV documentary some time ago confessed that he was obligated to take every advantage of customers who did not know how to negotiate. Even in 2012, it is the standard tactic of their salesmen to ask you what monthly payment you are looking for. They invite you tell them what interest you are comfortable with, and, if it is sufficiently high, they grab it with both hands. Modern car buying sometimes comes with the caveat learn thy enemy.
This is the new reality, and we can only vote with our feet. Or by learning the rules on how to fight back.
Some corporate bodies do set themselves up to do everything they can to make sure we will never get through to the appropriate official.
The USPS recently ripped out all seating in the post offices that had any, and replaced it with a canvas line to indicate where you should line up for service. If you or I had such an idea, we might have asked customers, or even counter staff, on the soundness of the plan. But not USPS – they arrived and implemented the plan before any protest could be voiced.
But why? – you may ask. I did ask USPS, and was told that from the corporate way of looking at things:
“We believe our customers deserve several things:
- A clean, uncluttered professional retail environment
- Signage that explains our products and services, and helps customers make informed choices so they can easily transact their business
- A well-stocked display of retail merchandise”
Did it cross their minds to provide a pleasant and comfortable shopping experience? Somewhere for the elderly and infirm to sit? A chance to chat with fellow shoppers? Apparently not.
“We needed to make these changes to give our customers a quick, easy, and convenient retail experience. The change … has been tested and proven to move customer’s through our lines more quickly and efficiently.”
And that is the heart of the new way of thinking: if it is more efficient, we need not care what the customers think.
Against such a monolith, we have little chance of getting those high in their ivory tower to listen to common sense. Listening to common sense is never efficient, and efficiency is the be-all and end-all of modern customer service
But those who do care about these things, they do win the occasional victory.
Until recently, if you shopped for wine on line at BevMo and made an error by failing to complete a drop down box, you would get a “Hey Charlie – you have not made a selection” error message. Enough customers called Charlie, and some who were not, objected to programmers “joshing around the way those IT types do” the company decided to act. The new message has taken away “Hey Charlie” and replaced it with “Oops!” A minor victory indeed – and as far as I know, those who did complain never got any acknowledgment – but that is OK.
If we win enough of these minor victories, it is not impossible that one day Corporate will start thinking again that customer satisfaction is a huge factor in long term profitability.
Telling counter clerks and store managers that they have been ordered to do something you dislike will not work. You have to try to find out who in head office is responsible, and email him or her. Sending stuff to “customer service” will only get you a form letter in response – from a “do not reply” email address, and your complaint, no matter how valid, will be consigned to the trash can.