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Thursday, 4 September 2014


A version of this was posted here in 2010.....

Not a lot changes!

I may have mentioned before that (my book) "Retail Confidential" began life as a customer diary, with a couple of slots on BBC Radio 4's "You and Yours" midday show.  It gave me the idea to try to build an insightful, practical and humorous analysis of customer service and consider why it is delivered so inconsistently from excellent to dire.  

Companies invest money, time, energy, effort, etc in recruitment, a process that has become ever more elaborate as the years have rolled by.  The emergence of assessment centres and other multi-layered sifting processes to fill job vacancies still fails to recruit the best of the best of the best as customer servants.  I used that term in a meeting and some around the room were horrified, as servants implies a kind of lower order.  But customer servants is what we are if we are in the customer service business.  We should not shy away from it or be insulted by it.  It is a title to wear with pride.  

I cover a lot of customer service ground in the book but to condense a couple of points:

1. HR with all its sophistication, expertise, sincerity and trendy language is failing to deliver the right recruits for customer service roles. "Bums on seats" quickly to make up the numbers is not an option - but it keeps happening.

2. Too many customer servants would rather be anywhere else than serving customers.  You can see it in glum faces, only animated by the chewing action as they masticate (it's allowed) gum or crunching mints.  I call these sour-faced people, "lemon-suckers", and they should not be allowed anywhere near a customer service team.  They give the good guys a bad name, all tarred with the same brush.

3 Customer servants are paid ridiculously low wages for the huge responsibility of being the front people for companies.  In the UK, around £6 per hour is scant reward - but that's a hornet's nest of a discussion.  However, it continues to be a valid point. You pay peanuts, you get....well, you know.

There is much, much more in the book, but wouldn't it be refreshing if customer service in some places even moved from dire to not bad?  Any progress will be encouraging..........please.

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