Customer Service Vs. Servitude, and I’ll Have Some Brats With That

If we treat employees like slaves, we get slave-like behavior.

Customer Service Vs. Servitude, and I’ll Have Some Brats With That

Q: I noticed that you had a brief conversation with an online colleague of yours, (@altmilan) who suggested that people on both sides of the customer equation (employees/companies AND customers) sometimes confuse service with servitude. Can you expand on this a bit?

A: Actually, that was Milan’s speculations and he asked it as a question. I don’t know the answer. Certainly, customer service has become horribly unbalanced, at times characterized by unreasonable customer demands. Too often bratty customer behavior is rewarded by companies even if it’s bad business. You have to wonder that we hold up Nordstroms as a shining example of customer service because, among other things, they have been known to accept returns of products they don’t even sell!. I’m not sure what that means.

Q: Are you seeing an unbalance attitude often?

A: Yes to that in terms of discussions on social media platforms like Twitter and what many of the loud “experts” proclaim.. For example, I just saw the following from @marshacollier who has expressed a desire to “help” create better customer service. She said:

Great #custserv is not something you implement, it’s who you are. Either you exist to serve or you don’t.

Q: I’m sorry, what’s your issue with that?

A: “…exist to serve?” You’re kidding me. Next we’re going to hear it is genetic to be good at customer service. Anyone who “exists to serve” needs serious therapy and a life, and anyone who even suggests that nonsense has no business holding forth on how to improve customer service. There’s a real problem here when you have people who want to be customer service gurus/trainers but only come at the problem from the customer’s perspective. Customer reps are human beings who do not exist for the purpose of serving other human beings. That is servitude and the concept is demeaning. Customer service is a business function and only can be understood by looking at it within a business context, and not an entitlement. It’s not something romantic, religious, or to tell you the truth, I’ve never met a kid who said “I want to be a customer service rep when I grow up”. It’s not the priesthood. It’s not even marginally good works.

The reality is that we are not talking about human rights here. We are talking about business functions. Suggestions customer service reps have to “exist to serve” and it’s “who they are” is simply the height of ignorance.

Q: It sounds like you believe that in this case along with @altmilan that there is a confusion of service with servitude?

A: Yes. It’s the only explanation I can think of. We’ve all come across bratty customers who behave badly and expect completely unreasonable things and actually act like the service rep “exists to serve” him or her. To hear this from a radio personality and author is simply shocking.

Q: Is this part of the customer service imbalance you talk about?

A: Yes, but we’ll have to get to that another time. There is a weird irony and some paradoxes worth examining. For example. Customers WANT more in terms of customer service, BUT, they actually expect less. Companies TALK about how their businesses are based on the best customer service, but their customers disagree. It’s important to be fair. There’s lots of unreasonable customers out there, but many more reasonable ones who simply want basic customer service in a convenient, timely way, and aren’t receiving it.

Author: Robert Bacal

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