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Monday, 26 September 2011

Customer Service with a Snarl !

Service with a snarl

But Then Again By Mary Schneider

Gone are the days when you can expect politeness and pleasant smiles from your friendly customer service troops.

WHAT’S happening to customer service these days? I feel as if I’m constantly battling with technical support staff and frontline personnel who are becoming more and more rude and inept at their jobs.

Take the other day, for example, when I woke up to find that my car battery was as dead as Paris Hilton’s singing career, forcing me to seek out my nearest car repair shop to get it charged.

As I entered the premises, I was met by a manageress who looked as if she had a lemon stuck to the roof of her mouth. Rather than welcoming my business, she was surly and brusque to the point of rudeness.

Four hours later, when I called to find out how the battery charging was progressing, the Dragon Lady told me, somewhat haughtily, that I had to be patient. Later still, when I called again for another update, she breathed fire down the line and gave me the impression that I was harassing her.

The following morning, a baby-faced mechanic showed up at my house with my super-charged battery, a few tools and a packet of cigarettes.

“Surely, re-installing my battery won’t take so long that you need to have a cigarette break,” I wanted to say, but didn’t.

As he fiddled with the battery, I glanced at the packet of cigarettes lying on my doorstep. The front of the packet had a picture of what looked like a premature baby with an oxygen mask strapped to its tiny face.

“Look what cigarettes can do to unborn babies!” I wanted to say to the young man working beneath my bonnet, but didn’t.

You’d think that someone so youthful and agile would be able to install that battery before you could finish saying: “Did you know that Paris Hilton once cut a record?” But this chap redefined the word “slow”.

I watched impatiently as he attempted to connect the cables to the battery terminals using a spanner that was too big to get the job done – for a full 10 minutes.

Then he turned to me and said: “Do you have a size 10 spanner? I forgot mine.”

Like who did he think I was? The Fix-it Queen? His question would be tantamount to a cardiologist asking his patient if she happened to have a bypass machine in her overnight bag, just before administering the anaesthetic for her heart transplant surgery.

Nonetheless, I did have such a spanner conveniently stashed in a drawer by the front door – where I’d left it after removing the battery the day before. I produced it with a flourish, expecting Babyface to be surprised. But he took it from me as if it were the most normal thing in the world.

After connecting the cables, he spent a gazillion years trying to clamp the battery into place. As I watched him, entire species of animals became extinct, thousands of babies were born (some of them looking like the picture on the cigarette box), continental plates grunted and groaned, and stock markets around the world plunged ever deeper into crisis.

When his slothfulness became unbearable to watch, I withdrew into the living room and began writing a list of things that I needed to do as soon as I was mobile again.

No sooner had I written the first item (get recommendations for a new service centre) when Babyface poked his head around the door and asked for my car key.

Now, my car has two keys. One for the alarm system, and the other for the ignition. How was I to know that he wouldn’t know his arse from his elbow and would attempt to start the car with the wrong key, causing the alarm to go into “let’s disturb the entire neighbourhood” mode.

At this stage I was so agitated, that I took the key from his nicotine stained hand and said, in a somewhat irritated tone: “What have you done?”

He responded by uttering the four words that are guaranteed to make me more agitated: “Now please calm down!”

Ten minutes later, as he was slipping the premature baby into his back pocket, he turned to me and said: “My boss sent me here because I am the only one who can speak English. I usually work with Japanese cars, which are very complicated. Malaysian cars like your Proton Waja are very simple, but I don’t know how to repair them.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or feel sorry for him.

But I do know where not to go if I have a flat battery in the future.

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