COMMENTARY: The Computer, not the Customer, is Always Right

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
COMMENTARY: The Computer, not the Customer, is Always Right

HUNTINGTON, WV (HNN) – A buzzword for persons and businesses has been growth, expand your goals, reach for stars, don’t stick with the standard.

The deep recession stymied forward progress. It seemed everything went downward.

Still, franchises with locations everywhere try to make one feel the same as another. Management wants the ambiance of success similar on the East Coast or West Coast. To learn what kind of experience a customer receives when stepping in a business, so-called “mystery shoppers” are retained to parrot and record data for the franchise’s home office.

Although priorities differ depending on sectors (i.e. a restaurant likely focuses on time and up-sale scripts more than a retailer which may focus less on a hurried customer and more on establishing rapport ), all businesses want repeat customers. They pay for advertising, yet, unsolicited word of mouth statements in conversation often sways decisions to select one location over a competitor.

Most businesses celebrate their anniversary. They hype how long they have been serving the public.

However, the 21st Century has brought a de-emphasis on personal service in favor of follow the script, don’t adjust for the nuances of individuals.

With that background, most businesses cater to long time patrons, but the removal of “local” from management and the domination of chained franchises has left interactions often mundane.

For some reason my parents patronized a particular establishment for over 60 years. After my dad passed, my mom became more in the forefront on these interactions. Yet, as a caught in the middle co-dependent listener, I heard words that nearly all mystery shop surveillance reports would dread --- We really don’t want your business. Never mind that you have been a customer for 60 years. Thank you.

Times change. Mom has not adapted to new policies. But on the phone I heard management make a startling statement: “She wants us to be the way we were in the 50s or 60s.” Paraphrased further, if you don’t like the new changes and policies, then, your 60 year relationship means absolutely nothing.

Interestingly, this is the same attitude that has overtaken the work place. Seniority used to matter. It meant more experience and likely an ability to handle unusual challenges successfully. Now, the years likely equal a higher pay scale, health deterioration, and possible pension pay outs.

The desire to “standardize” which made places like McDonalds and Starbucks household successes from one corner of the globe to the other has overtaken nearly everything. Unfortunately, the fast food or laid back coffee drinking experiences do not “standardize” to more complex consumer interactions.

What’s awesome for one demographic isn’t cool for another. Usually, an experienced manager would convey styles and nuances to younger, newer and even the more gruff workers. They might convey it to middle-management too.

Unfortunately, the bottom line has become too “standardized” for adjusting service. No, the customer isn’t always right; the computer is.

Maybe that’s why it’s harder to describe , maintain, and discover an appropriate balance between ‘business friendly’ and ‘customer service.’ No one is perfect, lest anyone should boast, but it’s one thing to have a standard scenario and another to adjust the scenario so that instead of ‘service,’ it begets discourtesy and taking advantage.

Just some words to ponder and determine how and if they apply to interactions along the journey.

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