Communicating with Bad Service

bad serviceBJ’s Optical customer service leaves much to be desired – at least the store in my neck of the woods does.  I recently went in to purchase a pair of glasses and the 2 salesclerks working at that time were merrily chatting away with each other and I was the only customer.  So I approached the desk to ask a question, and it was all they could do to break their conversation to answer.  They apparently view the customer as an interruption, not as a paycheck.  They figured I would buy or not buy, but it really didn’t matter to them at all.  The job entailed simply showing up as enough; there’s no requirement or incentive to be nice.

So ‘Kellie’ went through the motions of ordering my glasses, with zero extra effort expended.  At this point I have little faith that they were ordered correctly and I was rather sorry to spend my money there.  While I could have chosen to leave and shop elsewhere on principle, that day (every day) I was short on time and the product was adequate with a decent price.  So there you have it – a stuck consumer who just puts up with sub-par service and the company gains my business anyway.  That latter is really sad.

When bad service is completely unprovoked, it saddens me greatly that this is such a common scenario in too many places.  The attitude exhibited is clearly, ‘this is just a job and I really don’t care’.  Plus when the management partakes (yes, sadly one of them was the manager) it’s hopeless to register a complaint.  Big companies like BJ’s Optical with hundreds of locations are too big to care about local service.  It’s simply about numbers, not faces – bottom line results primarily based on pricing and selection.  There’s no concern that the buyer walks away with an icky feeling.

The cliché about bad service – the salesgirl snapping gum and doing her nails on the job – is not far off the mark these days.  The culture of large companies created the cliché and allows it to continue, even as the consumer moves away from retail stores.  If the sales staff is going to be terrible anyway, you might as well move to fully impersonal and save time, gas, and a buck by shopping online.  And the message these large companies with a culture of allowing poor customer service communicates to consumers is that the customer is not important.  Certainly not important enough to bother to interrupt your side conversation.

While Wal-Mart has its own issues around working conditions and not buying in the US, at least the culture at Wal-Mart is friendly!

COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY:  Branding is certainly impacted when companies allow their front line workers to communicate that bad service is not simply acceptable but is the norm.  When these businesses get the sale anyway due to lack of enough product competition, or pervasiveness of this malaise at other retailers, then there is little hope that a cure will happen anytime soon.  As the bricks and mortar sales environment continues to negatively change with cutbacks, I certainly miss the good old days (not that long ago) when good service was standard.  

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