Perhaps the only thing more scary than stumbling across the
Richard Simmons infomercial at 3 a.m. is finding the Internet, in
particular instant messenger, kaput.
Instead of rationally taking the time to search out the problem,
instinct drove me to immediately call the” all-knowing” customer
service line. After remaining on hold for what seemed like half my
life, the man on the other end said that I could remain on the line
for $9.99, or try to fix the problem through their “helpful”
Seeing as it was not exactly possible to access the “helpful”
on-line service at the time, and paying $9.99 for a shoddy product
that they had produced was not high on my list of things to do, I
hung up the phone, shaking my head at the sad state of customer
This is just one of the thousands of examples of the decline in
customer service today.
History shows an opposite picture. Back in the early1900s and
late into the 50s, companies prided themselves on their abilities
to serve the public.
James Cash Penney, founder of, you guessed it, JC Penney, named
his first store “Golden Rule” to reflect his extreme regard for the
phrase “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Founded
on this principle, JC Penney was proud to serve customers in a
friendly manner, and start not just customer-to-company
relationships, but friend-to-friend relationships as well.
Also, during this time, mom and pop shops were noted for their
focus on the customer. Shoppers were known on an individual basis
and the whole shopping phenomenon was an experience rather than a
Part of doing business was building relationships, and a
handshake was a binding contract to hold people to their word.
Today a handshake only seems to occur between the corrupt car
salesman and the customer he is taking advantage of. The needs of
the customers have been thrown to the wayside, and now it is viewed
almost as an interruption to want assistance in a store.
What exactly changed the happy go-lucky salesperson with the
picture perfect smile into the lazy, half-asleep salesperson with
the gloomy grimace? It seems that even though Americans are working
more than ever, quality of work and pride have declined.
Work ethic has transformed into the “just get it done quickly”
ideology from the “get it done right” line of thought. This lack of
attention to quality and detail has found its way into the customer
service realm and eaten away at it.
In years past, building a relationship with a customer was not
seen as a chore or job requirement, but rather a part of exhibiting
pride about one’s job. This is not true today, as it is seen as
just another task to get in the way. Because relationships take
time to build, they do not fit into the “get it done quickly” mold
and are cast away and soon forgotten.
Unfortunately, this lack of work ethic seems to be a nationwide
epidemic, and the “happy worker” vaccination has not yet been
invented. Until this occurs, or robotic machines start taking over
the customer service responsibilities, a drastic overhaul of
society is needed to instill pride in the population and reinstate
the work ethic.
In order for this to happen, society has to raise the bar the on
expectations. We can no longer accept “good enough” but rather
expect only the absolute best one can offer. Mediocrity must be
subdued and excellence brought to the forefront of society.
Until this happens, my expectations of friendly service remain
low and my long list of bad service examples will continue to grow
at an exponential rate.
If I have learned nothing else from these bad experiences, I
have at least learned that next time I have a computer problem the
computer and a sturdy baseball bat are the only things I need.
Stacey is a senior majoring in marketing. Her column runs every