Bringing Good Service Back
Bad Service Abounds
Service sucks today. Our country moves through time and good service is left farther and farther behind. The latest generation isn't even going to know what they have missed. Service is so dead now it's become another dinosaur. Pretty soon, people won't even believe such a thing ever really was; it will be like the tooth fairy and Santa Claus: a sweet old idea that is far too unsophisticated to be believed. This is a painful thought for me. So, what've I've decided to do is to start a campaign to bring good service back. A little crusade to reinstate courtesy and respect, maybe even deflate a bit of the rampant corporate greed. But I am going to need your help. Think of it as your duty to your kids, your grandkids, and all the generations beyond. Think of it as a gift.
What is the definition of "Good Service?"
Since anyone reading this under the age of twenty-five probably has no idea what I am talking about at all, I'll start with the simple definition of what "good service" actually means. My big old twenty pound dictionary lists the following:
good: ...-adj. 1. morally excellent; virtuous; righteous; pious: a good man. 3. of high quality; excellent. 4. right, proper; fit. . . . [the definitions go on for almost half a page].
service: ...-n. 1. an act of helpful activity; help; aid: to do someone a service.
Alright, so there you have it. Add those two up and what you have is the definition of what "good service" should be: An act of helpful activity that is morally excellent, of high quality and that is right, proper and fit.
Basically, good service is when someone or something is providing some kind of help or act or aid to or for us and, while doing that, does it well. Definition number one for "good" up there even suggests that there is a moral responsibility involved.
Alright, so there's the definition of what good service means. Let's take our new template out and lay it over some of the services you and I receive and see how contemporary businesses are holding up.
Companies and Good Service Today
Phone companies, cable companies, warranty companies, satellite TV, your bank, your mortgage lender, your utilities, and god help you if you call the government - I'm sure you get the idea - all totally practice what they preach about service, right? These institutions all profess on their web pages and on-hold phone messages how dear you and I, their customers, are to them. If you listen to what they say, it really starts off great and might even make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside if you actually thought any of it was real. But just try to talk to one of them sometime. Despite what they say, all that care and commitment never really pans out, does it? Yeah, you already know this story. You can't talk to them at all. Not without a fight or an enormous amount of time. It's because they don't want to talk to you. They don't want to talk to me either. They just want us to pay.
Despite the touchy feely rhetoric their advertising campaigns profess, the attitude they really hold seems to be more in line with this: Here's your service. Now shut up and pay. Service used to be a verb, something someone did, but now it has become a noun, just a thing, just some thing that these companies can do. By removing themselves from the equation emotionally, from the humanity of what they do, companies have convinced themselves they are no longer on the hook for any of that "excellence" or "virtuous" kind of stuff.
If you don't think companies are just slapping their products or services on you for the money, go through a McDonalds drive through sometime. A whole lot of them have a sign hanging above their window that tells you to have your money out by the time that you pull up. Sure, they toss a "please" at the front of it: "Please have your money ready" but you'll notice there is no question mark at the end. They aren't even pretending like they're asking; they're telling you, saying in essence: Hey, get your money out, and don't slow down the profit mill.
Now I get where some of that attitude comes from; there are lots of mouth-breathers out there who are nearly stupefied by the complexity of those two pedals on the floorboard of their car. Asking these Neanderthals to conceive and articulate a food order while keeping their faces oriented on the menu microphone is hard enough. Toss in the need for counting money and navigating a vehicle through the treacherous twists of the drive-through lane, and, well, some people are simply overwhelmed. I can see how the resultant slowness of customers like this might be annoying and clog up the flow of food (for McDonalds and their customers alike). However, such stupidity is not the normal order of the day. So, I stand by my original remarks. McDonald's just doesn't want to deal with you - or at least that's what their message seems to say.
And the phone companies, banks, satellite and cable, and tons of other "service" providers are all doing the exact same things. They slap their "service" on us and then hold out their hand. Heck, at McDonalds you have to pay them first, many of them you do. And the service gets worse and worse while prices go up and up.
Another perfect example is how they all treat us on the phone. Corporate automated phone systems have gotten completely out of hand. I've spent so much time looping through endless twists of long-winded options that never even mention anything I want to do that I frequently find myself contemplating suicide; I could just hang myself with the phone cord and never have to hear that horrible recorded voice again. And the worst part is the options that they give.
I mean, come on. I never call up a company to find out how much I owe. That's what my statement is for. Trust me, no company ever leaves me wondering what my balance is. Ever. But that's the first "option" they give on just about every company's phone bank: For your account balance and next payment due, press 1. Wow, thanks for making that hard to find information so much easier to get. Just once I'd like to call up and get something like: "Hi, my name is Suzy [or Bill or Akbar or... whatever], what can I do for you?"
Yeah, just that. Nothing else. Imagine. Someone real.
Alright, so clearly eternal phone-bank loops are not fitting into the "excellent" category of our definition of "good service" any more than do signs demanding that you hurry up and pay them already so they can be rid of you. So what are we to do? How can we make all this horrible service go away? How do we get to talk to Bill or Akbar when we call down to the bank or cellular phone company? How do we get Bill or Akbar to speak our language and understand specifically what we need?
Well, the simple answer is: Stop doing business with businesses that treat you like crap.
And this is really not an original idea. We've all had it. You've had it, I know. You've had it a million times before. You've thought it every time you got to that part of a phone-loop that told you it would return you to the beginning of the menu again - the same loop that already had not addressed your current needs. You've thought it every time that guy from India had no idea what the hell you were talking about when you called to fix the problem with your PC. You've thought it countless times before when some company treated you as if you meant less than dirt to them.
But what did you DO? That's the question. That's the problem too. You did the same as the rest of us I bet. Nothing. You never act. None of us do. We let the companies keep pushing us around; we pull up and get our money out just like it tells us to on the sign. Hell, we even schedule our payments to be made online, give our "service" companies access to our accounts, so they can get our money out for us. Wow, how thoughtful of them.
If you step back and look, most companies have actually gotten to where they don't ever have to see us at all, not even through the drive through windows any more. They don't even have to read our foul handwriting on a check. They have NOTHING to do with us at all.
Now that wouldn't be so bad if the services we got were really awesome and made us happy all the time. But that's not how it works at all. The services and products we get are getting sloppier and more dangerous by the day as more and more jobs are moved away from us, pushed off as companies find people to hire in other places that they can treat even worse than the rest of us will allow.
Here's the Catch
The bottom line for making service actually good again is that we actually have to punish business that treat us bad and make us mad. We can't just take whatever they dish out because it's the easy thing to do. Our laziness and need for "convenience" is driving the horrible service that we get. We'd rather eat that crappy cardboard pizza and complain as the grease is running down our chins than drive down to the mom-and-pop pizza parlor that makes pizzas with quality and care. We'd rather bank at Mega Bank Ultima with it's horrific service but ATMs everywhere than go to the small bank that would do anything to have us open an account.
The fact is, if you ever want decent sized seats on a plane, comfortable ones that actually recline, you have to stop buying the cheap-ass tickets that the lowball carriers will sell. You want an airplane that doesn't have parts falling out of it as you fly? Then stop insisting that airline companies let you fly practically for free.
We have to figure out what we really want, that's the catch. Do we really want crappy service in unsafe conditions just because it's cheap? Isn't that what goes on in unhappy countries around the world? The places that puke emigrants in waves onto Western culture's shores, disgorging human beings trying desperately to escape the misery of their lives? Take a look, people. There's a reason most everyone wants to come to the West; it's because modernity offers them a dream, a chance for opportunity and some quality of life.
That's right, I said: QUALITY of life. As in, something that is "good"... you know, something that is "morally excellent, virtuous" something that is "right and proper" something that doesn't suck. Stuff that doesn't come for cheap.
So decide, people. Are we going to offer quality of life; are we going to provide and demand good, quality service or are we just going to give it up for sloppiness and greed? Are we just going to let the shameless corporations suck us dry as they continue to globalize selfishly? I hope not. Capitalism doesn't have to be a bad thing, you know. It just can't be left to run amok. So what's it going to be?
Cut them off, I say. Don't let them continue to suck our monetary blood. Hell, even Dracula wined and dined his victims first, but not these vampires holding all the cards. Cut them off. Show them who really is in control.
And if you won't; if you are just going to roll over and take whatever they dish out, just know that you forfeit your right to whine and that you deserve to "have your money ready" when you get whatever it is you get.
Some great stuff on this topic too:
Straight to the point, imo.