Monday, February 23, 2009

Where Has Common Courtesy Gone?

I've been lamenting the lack of service that you find seemingly every day and everywhere, and unfortunately, I'm finding it more and more in the company I work for. I have been at this company for over 25 years, and we were trained by the now deceased owner to always go overboard in providing service. If someone asked a question and you didn't have the answer, you were to find the answer immediately and get back to that person. And if you didn't have an answer immediately, you were to call the person back and tell them what you had done and that you would continue to search for an answer.

I was reminded of this when I emailed a co-worker today to ask if we had received any claims on a new client since there were no claims in the computer system. I needed an answer soon but the phones in the claims department are always busy, so I find it less intrusive to email. Four hours later, I got a response telling me to check with someone else in the claims department (who sits 3 feet away from the person I sent the original email to). This is the kind of thing that raises my blood pressure. If she couldn't be bothered to stand up and walk the 3 feet, or even yell over to the co-worker, she could have at least emailed the co-worker (with a copy to me) and asked her to respond. It's common sense, common courtesy, and basic service. And it's gone.

A pet peeve is when I call a company to ask a question and I am told the system is down and I need to call back "later." Well I don't know when the system will be up; wouldn't it be better to take a message (seemingly a thing of the past) and have someone call me back when the system is up?

I know with the current economy especially, more people are doing more work than they used to. It's still not an excuse to blow people off.

Another pet peeve, and I work with people to do this, is to set your voice mail msg with the following: "I'm away from my desk right now, but please leave a message and I'll get back to you at my earliest convenience." Do people not realize how rude that sounds? I'm busy, but when I feel like it, I'll get back to you....

I work for a company that handles medical claims, and we used to get calls from hospitals and doctors' offices calling to request the status of claims. I was recently very surprised to learn that many hospitals and doctors' offices have sent even this basic function to India. So we now get frequent calls from India, checking status of claims. They usually have no identifying information so we can't find who they are checking on, and the calls with India last twice as long. One of the claims examiners told me last week that one of the hospitals we work with pulled the function back from India and admitted it was a mistake to send it there.

And the lack of human beings when you need an answer is sooooooo frustrating. You are given a choice of dialing numbers 1 through 4, and you listen to each offering and still can't decide which one is appropriate. Where you would normally dial 0 to speak to a human being, that option has become all but extinct. So you waste 10 minutes and hang up in disgust.

There are so many times I need basic information from co-workers and I leave them an email or voice mail msg and they never get back to me. So now I have to follow up, and I'm busy too! And I get back to people when I say I will! And I take calls from clients who want to complain about co-workers who don't return their calls, and I am no longer a boss, so there's not much I can do other than help the person.

I think I'm rambling. It's Monday and I just hate the way half the world has lost common courtesy. I guess we need to remove the "common" now when we talk about courtesy.


bella rum said...

Oh, my goodness, you are preaching to the choir. I've been around long enough to remember when great customer service was the norm. Where has it gone?

They used to check our oil when we stopped for gas. Boy, am I dating myself. Great post.

Trish said...

Service has indeed become the rarity, rather than the norm. It is so bad that when I DO get service, I nearly go into shock!
Shame that money has become so much more important than people - the business model has become very skewed...

Good post and I sure did relate to it!

Jeanie said...

Good morning! Over the past six months or so, I've been on the front lines of taking angry viewer services calls with people frustrated about digital TV, not knowing how to set up their stuff, angry because they can't get us. It isn't always fun, but I always try to treat them (and, I might add, my office colleagues) as I like to be treated.

The interesting thing, is that by handling people in a timely way, talking to them like they're you or your best friend and not someone who has an ax to grind from the start, you begin to realize they just have problems and are frustrated themselves, and they're so darned happy not to be talking to automated tellers and to a real person they generally end up apologizing for sounding so mad!

It's a small reward, but I'm always glad when that's the outcome. It means we all won.

JessInFocus said...

Amen sister! Under my previous supervisor everything we did was for the happiness of our customers. And now? Ha! A client needed help and she told me I couldn't go because it should have been in the packet they recieved. HOW RUDE!!!! It makes me sick. What am I supposed to say? My supervisor said I couldn't come help you. Try reading the email again? Ugh. He had never been required to do anything like that before. Most of the time they just need a little confidence booster and like knowing they have someone that wants to do whatever to help them. Sorry for the book, but this really hits home. :)

Sharon said...

You're right. It's interesting - I was just talking to Linda about how wonderful a certain doctor's office staff was - they were kind, professional, caring, personable, attentive, etc. And they were! But here's the thing - it shouldn't have been as much of a surprise as it was! The fact that I noticed it to the point of discussion shows how unusual and unexpected that kind of behavior has become!

Carole said...

I think in this economy the businesses that provide good customer service are going to be the ones that are going to weather the storm - in this atmosphere of increasing competition for the few dollars that are left, I think customer service is going to win out. Great customer service nearly always wins me over as a loyal customer even if it means paying a little more or driving a little further.

anno said...

Amen! Sometimes I think much of the problem arises from companies, in the attempt to "train" their (often non-native) Customer Support Reps, require them to follow scripts that seem obvious and banal; it dehumanizes what ought to be the very human (and humane) relationship that Jeanie describes.

And I think Carole is right: the companies that survive are more likely to be the ones that can show that they value their customers' concerns along with their own welfare.