Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A note on customer service

I really really care about good customer service. In fact, it's a big part of the reason I became a librarian in the first place. I love helping people but I hate sales, and I'd been working in retail since age 15, so I I thought libraries would be a good medium-ground - I haven't been proved wrong yet.

Lately I've experienced some really crappy service (personally) and some really oustanding service (professionally), which has prompted to write this.

First the bad:
  • A local cafe near me charges 70c for soy milk in coffee - 70c! The coffee has always been pretty expensive, but I noticed last weekend that they have now pushed the price of soy milk up as well. I won't go there anymore on principle alone - that's just overpriced (especially when the coffee isn't that great to start with). The staff aren't particularly nice (a bit too cool for school) and the space is small and cramped - so a big red cross for them.
  • A city cafe that I go to regularly for morning coffees told me yesterday, when I dared to ask for a coffee to eat in at lunch time, that I couldn't do that if I wasn't having food because they just don't allow that at lunch time. WTF? You're a cafe. Yes, I understand that you're busy at lunch time and you want to make as much money as you can during the lunch rush. But seriously, taking up one seat at your communal table for 15mins while I drink my latte surely won't break the bank. I'll never go there again, even though there's a couple of vegan options on the menu...
  • Supermarkets. I know I'm not alone here and I know the checkout people get paid crappy wages and usually get treated badly as well (my flatmate at Uni was a checkout girl so I've heard the stories). But it doesn't hurt to smile occasionally. I mean, how miserable is your life? I worked in crappy retail jobs to pay my way through Uni and I know it is much more bearable when you make the effort to be nice to people - it gives you that warm fuzzy feeling inside - and once a day of warm and fuzzy is usually enough to make the other not-so-nice stuff worthwhile.
  • Also, supermarkets - if I bring my own bags I don't expect to fill them myselves - that's your job. Actually, I think the last point is more the fault of the supermarket management - they all spruik these 'green' policies, but very few enforce them or encourage their staff to.
As I said above, I have worked in the customer service industry since I was 15 and I feel passionately that if you don't like people and you don't care about customer service - GET ANOTHER JOB! There's lots of jobs out there that don't require constant face-to-face contact with people. All I can say is, if I treated my customers like this, I wouldn't have a job, seriously.

So what about the good? I won't go into details, but it was basically simple things - easy things, like:
  • People going out of their way to help me
  • Prompt service
  • An appreciation for the fact that we all need to ask for help sometimes
Rant over.


  1. Name and shame the cafes! They sound rubbish...

  2. Don't get me started on rudeness - and not just in cafes but also in the office.

    However I had someone who was lovely and friendly at the supermarket tonight and it was a nice change.

    There is also a flip side to rudeness - one guy at our supermarket is so over the top friendly that I avoid him as I don't have the energy to be badgered.

    But one of my real gripes is packing my own bags when I bring my own - or even unpack the plastic bag and then pack my own bag because they are so quick to put groceries in a plastic bag - I agree that management really needs to work on this one.

  3. Ooh yeah, rudeness riles me too.

    But being charged extra for soy, and THEN charged the standard omni price if you REMOVE cheese/ham/whatever from your dish is the worst!

    And if you want my head to explode in fury then charge me even more than the standard price to remove the ham and cheese replace with mushrooms! FUMING!!

  4. Lisa - I won't go so far as to name the cafes (I think I have spent too much time around lawyers :-)), but the 1st cafe is in Yarraville and the 2nd in Centre Place.

    Johanna - I know what you mean about friendliness - I love my regular city cafe to bits - they're so friendly, but some days I just feel like anonymity.

    Niki - I hear you - pet hate!

  5. I care about good customer service too, and I try hard to provide it at our bookstore. :)

    The only times when I am less so is when the customer themselves is being rude or douchey. I wish I could just have a blanket policy if someone comes up to the register on their phone that I could say "I'll serve you when you're ready" and walk away.

    But yeah one of my favourite parts about my job is when I have gone out of my way to find an elusive product for a nice customer and they thank me and go away happy with the service. :)

  6. Oh man, I HATE it when people won't get off their phones! I usually try to think of something I need to ask them to force them off the phone - like 'we need to update your address' or something like that. So rude!