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Why can’t companies just treat their customers properly?

05 January 2013, 13:16

I am a frustrated consumer. I have spent what was supposed to be my two week leave frustrated and irritated by the lack of customer care in South Africa.  The past month I have had to complain to more than 5 companies regarding service, products, illegal direct marketing smses and mistakes. 

I will be returning to work on Monday and it doesn’t feel as if I have been on leave.  Now a lot of people might say that maybe if I had spent my time relaxing instead of complaining I wouldn’t be in this position but the complaints were not about small petty things. 

Buying a DVD Player that doesn’t work is reason to complain, having your cell phone account suspended for no reason and then it was a mistake on the providers side is a good reason to complain especially if it happens on Christmas Eve, being bombarded by direct smses after you’ve asked the service provider sending those smses to stop is definitely something to complain about and your bank not sending you an authorisation sms to authorise an online payment when they are suppose to leading you to lose a substantial amount of money and now the bank refuses to reverse the payment is definitely something to complain about and to top that all off the very website meant to help you put these complaints forward then treats you like dirt and you think it’s rather hypocritical of them so you complain and then  they suspend your account for no perfectly good reason whatsoever. 

That is over and above the customer service one gets during the festive season by cashiers and sales assistants who do not smile, greet or even speak to you when you make purchases.   Oh let’s not forget the sales consultants and cashiers who would rather be standing around chatting to one another whilst you stand and wait for them to finish so that you can be helped. Ever happen to anyone else or is it just me? 

I believe that you need to do unto others what you want done to yourself so as a Recruitment Consultant I give a free service to the general public and only get paid by my clients when I make a placement, but that does not mean I can treat the general public any way that I please.  I treat every person I meet no matter how unsuitable they are as if they were my most prized client. 

I don’t know where they will be in a few months or years time or what opportunity can arise!  Every person I meet whether it is the petrol attendant or a CEO is like gold to me.  Opportunities can arise in the most the most unlikeliest places, so I need to always be prepared.  Like currently I am seeking Sales Consultants and my client just wants someone with the right personality and is willing to give people with minimal experience a chance.  So whilst doing my Christmas shopping I sought sales consultants with that personality.  I found none! 

Do retail sales assistants want to earn low salaries for the rest of their lives?  I don’t think so, but they sure act like it!  And this is my problem.  Why can’t companies have a strong customer care and service ethic? You can see which companies do and which companies don’t by the way their staff treat their customers.  Then I also have to ask, if their staff is treating the public terribly, how is the company treating their staff?  Obviously they must think it’s okay to treat customers horribly because that is how they are treated!  So bad customer service could lead a company from losing a potential employee who is one of the best in the country at what they do only because of bad publicity!

I’ve started to believe I am the only person left in this country who actually still cares about customer service.  Mostly people don’t care because they don’t think anything will be done, but that is where they are wrong.  Companies get away with what they do because of the silence of its customers, so when people like me do complain, they’re not taken seriously and nothing changes.  The more people complain and take action, the more the companies will be forced to do something because they can and will lose revenue.  In the words of Napoleon: “The world suffers a lot. Not because of the violence of bad people, but because of the silence of good people!” This is so true!

In today’s world there are actually many ways to complain.  No more snail mail and phoning companies to complain.  There is email, Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and of course the company’s website – the companies do respond and if they don’t  you can give them a call directly. (I do not condone the use of online websites where companies have to pay to reply to complaints as it isn’t fair to smaller companies who can’t afford to do so, so what closure does the consumer get from that and it isn’t fair to larger companies who have the means for the public to contact them directly with their complaints and it’s definitely not fair to consumers as they do not pay at all and therefore are not treated professionally by the staff of the website.)

I understand that people do make mistakes, I have done so too.  But the number one rule (for me) in customer care is not to leave a customer with more questions than answers and to help them to the best of your ability.  They should not feel that you’ve wasted their time.  And always smile when you answer the phone!! If employees can stick that basic rule, then the chances of someone complaining can possibly be lowered.   When I contact a company, I don’t care that the person I’m speaking to has spoken to thousands of people before me, has been dumped by their boyfriend/girlfriend, is having a bad day or just had a bad caller before me, I had nothing to do with that, therefore I should not and will not be treated as if I did.  I’m tired of that excuse being used when I confront them about it. 

I am able to smile to each person I meet or calls in every single day no matter how I feel – and 2012 was not exactly a great year for me.  So it can be done.  I deal with Customer Care Consultants who have to speak to people who have had guns held to their heads every day, yet they still smile every time someone calls! You never know if a simple phone call or walk in customer can change your life for the good or for the bad.  The outcome depends on you.  As for me in 2013 I will continue to give the best service to people so that no one I encounter has to feel as frustrated as I do right now.  I just hope that the companies and employees who deal with the public feel the same!

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