Art of customer service lost on many today

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There are a couple commercials on television that do an accurate job of addressing the current state of quality customer service.

When I say “quality customer service,” I’m referring to any business that provides a product or service to the consuming public: privately owned businesses, major corporations, state and federal civil servants, and even politicians.

One television commercial goes something like this: A young couple attempt to walk inside a bank. However, there is a man wearing a nice suit at the front door. He halts the couple and asks if he can help them. The couple replies that they, merely, want to go inside and speak with their customer service representative.

 The suited man laughs out loud and informs the couple that the bank ceased doing that — providing customer service — a long time ago.

Bewildered and upset, the couple tells the doorman again that all they want to do is go inside and speak with a bank employee. About that time, a tall, burly man, also dressed in a suit, opens the front door leading into the bank, walks outside, stands beside the suited doorman, and gruffly asks if there is a problem.

 Using satirical reality, producers of this commercial have been successful at striking a nerve with viewers: Though the young couple only are seeking a simple service from a public business, a bank, they are treated in much the same manner as would be a bunch of rowdies attempting to gain entrance into a trendy nightclub. The bouncer has to come outside and help get the situation under control.

 Another television commercial that does an apt job of addressing today’s poor quality of customer service is what I call the “Peggy” commercial.

 In this one, you see a dilapidated shack in a snow-covered area, out in the middle of nowhere. Inside the shack is a bearded, nefarious-looking fellow, along with several other questionable-looking sorts. The bearded man, in an accent that sounds like, maybe, a mixture of Bulgarian and broken English, speaks into a phone and says, “USA Prime Credit. My name Peggy. You got problem?”

 The camera then cuts to an attractive, well-dressed lady, cell phone to her ear, and she responds with, “Peggy? This is the third time I’ve called. It’s time I speak with a supervisor!”

 The camera cuts back to the smiling fellow who says, “Supervisor is genius. I transfer.” With that, he passes around the phone to the others inside the shack, and everyone hollers “transfer” into the phone until it works its way back to the bearded ringleader, who says, “Hello, my name is . . .”

 And the camera cuts back to the business lady, who says, “Peggy — come on!” She proceeds to stomp the sidewalk in disgust.

 A little over a month ago, I upgraded my cell phone. In switching phones, I made it abundantly clear that I wanted to keep my original cell phone number. “No problem,” the technician assured me.

Sure enough, my old cell phone number worked for approximately 24 hours, then — presto, as though some unknown entity had intervened — my old number ceased working. Somehow, by some means, my new cell phone had been issued a new number.

 Over a span of three days, I spent somewhere around six, blood pressure-raising hours on the phone with this particular phone outlet’s trouble-shooting number. If I heard it once, I heard it 10 times, in less than the most intelligible of English: “Sir, we must escalate problem to higher echelon” — then  silence, followed by several minutes of rock music.

 After the incident with my cell phone, all I could think about for days was the hilarious, but true, “Peggy” commercial.

Mike Vinson can be contacted at
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