Monday, March 7, 2011

Customer Service Nightmare

I have been working with customer service for sometime now, and this was my first experience in this field. What  I have realized during this stint, is that customers are treated like Gods in this country. And maybe that has spoilt them. The things they expect us to do are just amazing.

Working at a library has brought me face to face with a wide range of people. Starting from toddlers to elderly people, each set comes with different issues. We have to agree though, that most of the people are nice and appreciative of the service extended to them, but then, there is that exclusive category of snobby people who feel they own us.

And things just get worse when there are emergencies like the December blizzard and the recent snowstorm. Just because machines take care of some stuff, people forget that it is humans who man the machines. And staff face the same difficulties as normal people do. You wouldn't believe the kind of calls we get on such days. One person called in when the snowstorm was at it's peak on Sunday, and asked the most ridiculous question "So, you are saying that the library is open for now, but what happens if I am on my way and you decide to close? Can you tell me for sure that you will be open till 5?". For one, you just go back home and drive through the bad weather, just like we did. And two, we are not mind-readers to know what the authorities are going to decide as to when to close.

People just forget that we are human too and it is not like we are an emergency service. And I understand that some customers might have impending things to be taken care of, for which they might require the computers or online services of the library. But it is when people call in for petty issues like returning a book or being late by one day. Do you think a 30 cent fine is more important than the safety of so many staff members??? At such times, it is necessary to humanize the situation and question yourself if you would like to be in that position? If your answer is no, it very well means that the other person must not really be enjoying being there, since, after all everybody is human.

Leave apart emergencies, even on regular days, the things we get inside books, the condition that books are turned in, are nothing short of nasty. We have had bobby pins, credit cards, bills and what not inside the books. And the worst part, is when they come running to you and want you to retrieve a credit card from inside a book that they can't even describe. Once books go through machines, they just land in their respective bins. It is not as if the machine detects credit cards and unwanted material and magically places it in an exclusive bin. This is a real world , not  fairyland. And when you try explaining the poor odds of finding their lost property inside the book, you become the bad guy and you get those looks of contempt and disgrace. But, you move on and smile at the next person, hoping that they are better.

If we were to hold a grudge for every ugly and dirty book that we handle throughout the day, we would be frowning all day. Books come in with coffee stains, sticky lotion, dog hair, bite marks, water and snow damage and everything else imaginable. If the book could speak, I am sure it would narrate us of the adventures it has had. It is almost like people have lost value for public property. Why doesn't anyone think of a simple thing, would you want to check out such a book? If you wouldn't, why would someone else? And why should other people be expected to take care of the results of  your neglect and irresponsibility?

It is like people have lost the respect for public property, and are taking public service for granted. Though unpleasant, I am glad that I got a chance to be on the receiving side, because I can perceive better the ordeals of others in the customer service industry. So that, when I am a customer at other places, I am able to show much more appreciation for what they do for us. Because I know how nice it feels, when people send in chocolates and sweet "thank you" notes; when people appreciate your efforts. Days like those make up for the other horrible endeavors with customers and helps us gear up for the nightmares coming our way!!!

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