Friday, August 2, 2013

Customer (dis)service

Remember the days when customer service was an important part of any business?  When something went wrong, the company would go out of their way to make things better.  I remember entering the workforce and always hearing "The customer is always right."  At that time, I worked at a fast food joint.  It was drummed in to me that even if the customer was wrong, it was my job to make it right.

What has happened to our society?  It seems that not only are customers disinterested, but also lazy.  It has become cool to blame the customer for even the most egregious of sins committed by the company itself.

In recent years, I have had experiences with companies that just didn't return phone calls.  (Don't they need business?) Companies where employees simply flat out LIE about their products.  My most recent experience was with a non-profit.  It's not a traditional non-profit, such as a charity.  This particular organization is more of a group of individuals that gather together to educate others.

For my dog friends, it is very similar to a dog training club.  For those who don't know, the dog training clubs were started so that individuals had a place to train their own dogs for things such as competitive obedience. It was soon realized that simply exist in and among themselves, there is not enough money to cover the expenses so the organization must branch out.  In the case of the dog training club, it becomes necessary to invite the general public.  The members of the club help train John Q public in the basics--come, sit, stay-- and the influx of money helps pay for wonderful things like new equipment, rent on the building, and hopefully air conditioning.

The end result is that the dog club then must think and function like a business.  It must provide the classes and services that its "customers" (the general public) wants and can use.  When it does so it thrives, when it doesn't it dies. The members will tell you that all they want is a place to train their own dogs!  I understand, I've been there.  But that isn't how it works in the real world.

The particular organization (we'll call it "Group X) is dying a slow and painful death.  The ones in charge have not yet realized how much they rely on those outside the "golden circle" if they wish to survive.  I find this sad, because it's a great organization.  It has lots to offer a community, and my early involvement with them was a wonderful experience.

Unfortunately, there has been a "power shift" at the top.  This change has not had a positive influence on the group.  My recent experiences with Group X has been increasingly frustrating.  The services promised have not been delivered, and Group X is becoming simply a shell with it's name on the outside--a hollow promise to the community.  When things go wrong (which seems to be more and more often these days)- the new person in charge becomes first defensive, and then condescending.  Customer service, to Group X, is non-existent.  I was told "we don't work like that."  And that, Group X, is why you are failing financially.  In order to survive, especially in this economy, you must THINK like a business.  If you continue to run off your customers, you will be left with nothing.  And in the end, it will be the community that loses.

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