I have had a couple of recent experiences that leave me disheartened and encouraged at the same time.
I grew up in New York City in the 1970s and 80s- not that long ago. One of the things that most impressed me as a kid was the way the store owners and retailers in my neighborhood knew me, my sister and my parents and provided attentive service. Now, granted, I grew up in New York, not Mayberry. But even at the Sloan’s on the corner (which was a long gone supermarket chain), the cashiers and other store employees knew me and my mother. The dry cleaner downstairs even gave me a battery powered car race track for Christmas one year. Even now, it seems like quite a length to go to in order to keep my parents bringing their clothes there, but experiences like that one stuck with me. I guess many of these smaller retailers were holdovers from an earlier time whose ethic remained unchanged. But times DO change and what is deemed to be OK changes with them.
As I grew up and worked in various service industries (waiter, radio sales, talent agency up to owning my own business), it just seemed like paying attention to your customers and trying to help them was what you did. You didn’t need to be TRAINED at it- it was how you treated people.
It comes down to empathy. Is it lacking in our society? I guess it depends on who you ask, where you live and a host of other factors. But it shouldn’t.
I have had a recent negative experience with a company that I like and support and have always had very positive dealings with in the past. It is unwitting suicide (now THERE’S an interesting idea) for a company to have its front line people present a poor impression of the company. We all deal with the people in the store or on the phone, not with the Senior VP of Marketing or Customer Service who probably really wants to take care of the customer and make sure that they are loyal and satsfied.
Where is the fault? Americans’ never ending quest for a deal and lack of loyalty? Indifferent sales people? Interchangeable products and our culture of disposability? Are all of these generalities unsupported by facts? It is for each of us to decide.
But back to the encouraging part: there is a yawning void to be filled by those who seek to help others, offer good service and try and understand what their customers want. The internet has done two conflicting things very well: it has served to separate and isolate us as never before, and it has brought like-minded people together as never before. But here is the key need that the internet has exposed: our basic human requirement to CONNECT with someone else.
Help people connect in a way large or small, and you help them to live. It is that simple.