The Age of Customer No-Service

We’ve had the stuffing beaten out of us and recovery is like trying to climb a mud mountain with a 200 pound backpack. It’s hard. It’s hard for everybody. Still, I have heard many people talk about the “good things about Covid”. Things like families getting to know one another again. People are gardening together and doing DIY projects around the house; people are getting to know other dog walkers and people jogging, and we’re enjoying it. People are discovering happiness in places they never knew existed. These activities, driven by a pandemic, have taken root and that is a great thing!

I have been shown such kindness in my own life that it breaks my heart, in a GOOD way. Total strangers have reached out to help me when they see me trying to lift heavy things, or move unwieldily objects. I have been utterly taken aback about such unexpected kindnesses, and have begun to really believe that our society is NOT completely full of hatred and discord. I am surrounded by kindness in my community, and I feel genuinely blessed. If you are alone, and if you watch the news of even see bits of it by accident, you can begin to feel like the wheels have fallen off; but they have not. Maybe it’s because more people are home these days, or because people have been slowed down by events beyond our control and haven’t picked up speed yet. Maybe it’s because people realize we actually are connected and we do need one another. But whatever the reason, my entire perspective has changed. And I cannot TELL you how glad I am about that.

There’s a flip side. Hate I said that, right? Well it is true. Everyone is healing, everyone is feeling a bit frayed around the edges and it seems like some are actually tearing. I am a real estate agent, so I am in constant contact with service providers, clients, attorneys and their employees, other agents…and that’s not even counting the usual suspects in my non-work life. It bothers me that I am finding a lot of curt, rude answers sent by email (because people won’t usually dis you in person) in response to inquiries I have to make. Our responses should be crafted as though we are talking to a CUSTOMER, because most of the time, we are. It is also noteworthy that we in real estate HAVE to pass along questions or concerns from one person to another, as a way of life. And of course in negotiations, it is ALWAYS worse when kindness is not a factor in the process. It should be; negotiations are not fights.

Here’s a good one for example: “The check has not come yet.” Okay, there should be a comma at the end of that clause, to say, “but it should be here within two weeks.” That would serve to provide valuable info for the person expecting a check, would take second to type, less to SAY, and would be…are you ready? Good customer service. IF the rest of the sentence is provided, then the person looking for check would know that it’s just not time yet. And what’s so bad about trying to be helpful? Not sure, but customer service seems to be leaving us. IS that a Covid thing?

Normally, I vote with my feet. When I am treated as though my presence and my money are an annoyance, I just go elsewhere. It’s really a waste of time to try to talk with people about it because rudeness can be a chronic condition that never heals; and, I am not into wasting my breath. But I think Covid has left footprints to a place that’s not so great, in that face-to-face interaction waned and we know that anonymity does not breed kindness. I think people in business and otherwise, tend to operate in the ‘silo’ paradigm, wherein actions happen in a closed off environment with no windows that enable us to see outside…where the CUSTOMERS ARE. So we need to be careful that we remember whom our customers are, and remember that in business, we’d kinda like those customers to stick around…and bring their friends and family.

And listen, sometimes ‘rudeness’ is caused people feeling overwhelmed and overworked and TIRED. We’ve all been there. When those situations exist it is even MORE important to take a breath and not be rude.

By the way, do you know whom your customers are? You are my customer, right now as you read this. I’m a customer to my manager, my clients are my customers, and I am a customer of the people who (God bless them) put out my real estate signs. They are MY customer when it is time for me to pay them for the work they did for me. See how that works?

The silo idea I mentioned is not new; it’s been talked about for years. It normally happens when, for example, a group of engineers work together every day, not actually connected to the quality department. Quality guys do their thing; engineers do their thing, and everyone gets so into their own work environments that they forget the other is even out there. Even when they depend on one another. What good does it do to be excellent among your peers when the quality department has its own set of parameters agains which you will be audited? And what good does a great audit program do with nothing to audit?

Culture comes from the top. If the idea of rudeness has infiltrated your work environment (due to Covid or not) and set up shop, then somebody at the top either condones it, or doesn’t know about it. But know that word gets around about a business culture, and in fact, one person can literally destroy a business by driving away customers. Take a look around you and think about how you interact with people. Are you trying to please your co-workers in the silo, or are you trying to perform great customer service, yes, even when things are overwhelmingly busy.

Long story short, I love the good things that have come out of Covid, but the rudeness caused by frayed nerves, frustration, whatever it is…needs to stop. Life is so much nicer when a stranger’s kindness can catch you by surprise and tug at your heartstrings. Kindness is NEVER a bad thing. Good customer service should be paramount in any business, and if it is not, well, I won’t be joining you.

Brenda Briggs


Coldwell Banker Advantage

Wake Forest, NC

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