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Marketing / Customer service

Poor customer service: Being treated like a criminal

Hands up who likes getting told off? I’ve had a number of interactions with businesses that have made me feel like a naughty child, and this is very poor customer service.

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I called the bank and before they’d let me speak to a human, I had to key in my customer number. A slip on the keypad led to a recorded message “Sorry, those details are incorrect. We’ll put you through to a representative and if you cannot provide identification, you are in danger of being barred from your account.”

Whaaaat?!

I understand the need for security, but this guilty until proven innocent treatment really got on my nerves.

How much nicer it would have been if, post mistake, I heard a message saying “Thank you. Please keep your details handy as we’re going to have to check them again with a representative.”

Then there’s the airline who, as part of their pre take off safety talk, give you a stern and lengthy ticking off about smoking in the toilets. Come on, guys! Who smokes anymore, let alone on a plane.

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Aren’t the multiple signs within the toilet enough to head off the one-in-a-thousand idiot who thinks about lighting up in-flight? Instead, 999 others are treated like a bunch of disobedient teenagers poised to do the wrong thing.

"I’m not suggesting we get all buddy buddy with everyone, but at least be conscious of the style and tone of your small print."

Then there are the businesses who don’t make it easy for you to do the right thing. My local grocer has a shirty sign next to the salad leaves saying “Please do not drop lettuce on the floor!” Meantime they supply tiny bags and ultra strong spring loaded tongs to package said lettuce, making it hard to keep the operation clean.

What about the supermarkets who nag you about returning your trolley, yet only supply two trolley parks at opposing ends of the car park?

These kinds of examples of poor customer service leave me with a heavy heart. And does that put me in the mood for buying? I think not. Nothing is going to dampen the ardour of a potential customer faster than admonishment.

I’m not suggesting we get all buddy buddy with everyone, but at least be conscious of the style and tone of your small print. Also, you need to check your processes carefully to ensure you’re not setting your customers up for failure.

I’m sure you’ve got some cracking examples of poor customer service to share, let’s keep the whingefest going in the comments below.

Sam Leader

is a former director of Flying Solo and the co-author of Flying Solo - How to go it alone in business.

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