by Joe Baxter
In Arcadia at the Round Barn, the Sunday Elm Tree Concerts have begun! Janice Francis-Smith kicked us off in fine style May 1, and my Tulsa friends “And Then There Were Two” are scheduled Sunday, May 15, at 1:00 pm, with guest host, Buffalo Rogers. The Round Barn Ramblers are off rambling this weekend, (including yours truly,) so our favorite Jones couple, Roger & Jackie Mashore and my old buddy Harold “Vern” Dugger are going to cover the regular Saturday Morning Music session. May 14 at 10:30 am. Always some music going on at the Barn.
Arcadia is cooking with gas these days. The new Chicken Shack is coming along! ***Note to whoever is doing that build: We ALL think that wire spool fence is an awesome, idea, but ugly. We took a vote and we think you should paint it a nice BARN RED. That’d look gooooood. Give us a holler and we’ll match up some paint for ya.
Lots of gardening talk on social media. I love it. I love gardeners. Y’all go ahead & grow lots more than you need, and if you are forced to give produce away, I SUPPOSE Jean and I could bring ourselves to take some off your hands. Can you bring it by?
My Ramblin’ Joe subject for the week is Customer Service. I sure am getting old and grouchy. It’s an age thing to be sure, but my ire continues to be well-justified. I’m having to work harder on my patience these days than I ever have. Believe me, I have DAILY opportunities to practice. My long-standing #1 pet peeve? BAD customer service. JUST my luck; I find myself at a juncture in our nation’s history when the consumer has taken a hard backseat to the bottom line. It’s what happens when businesses already have all the business, (and money,) that they need. What else is new, huh? This is especially true with many of our service providers. Most problems with service providers are due to the fact that the customer base has grown 100 times faster than the number of service providers. As a result, my $200 problem is just a little less critical than the $2,000 problem.
I’ll give you a f’rinstance: Remember when we used to schedule service visits and appointments for a certain time? The plumber, electrician, etc., would tell you they’d be there at 10, then if they were a little early or a little late, we just accepted that. It seems those days are long gone. Now, they tell you, “Well, somebody will be there between noon and four.” Y’all are going to get tired of me talking about bad management, but THIS IS IT, in a nutshell.
Put me in charge of a shop? I’ll schedule non-emergency work AS THE CALLS COME IN. This simply means that if you were the first to call, you are the first on the list. If I tell you (the customer) that the tech will be there at 10, then that’s your time, and it’s his job to be there on time. Now, we can’t help but suspect that the less-than-froggy worker who is not required by management as part of his or her J-O-B to be on time is probably out there spanking the dog while we cool our heels, dead in the water, trapped at home or in some crappy waiting room with the sad realization that this business’ time is more important than the customers’ time.
DON’T get me wrong. I understand that it’s difficult at best to juggle job times and travel times and schedule work effectively. I did it for years. That’s why I’m well-qualified to make these judgments. There’s no way to determine whether the current task might take two hours or twenty hours. But that’s MANAGEMENT’S task, right? It will never be possible to be spot-on time every time, but it’s management’s job to Take Care Of The Customer. Do you know what drove this change? Cell phones, baby. Instant mobile communication has added a built-in “slop factor.” Believe me, anyone who has waited for the cable guy lately probably suspects, like I do, that the guy is likely taking advantage of that dubious bit of cell phone flexibility to operate at HIS own pace, not the customers’. The promise; “Our service tech will be there at 10,” has been replaced by, “We’ll call you when we’re on our way.” Then, the Customer is expected to respond with deep gratitude. Thank GOD that my help is on the way, five days after the call, three hours late, and wanting money up front just to get out of the dang truck.
Hey, as far as customer service goes, I’m not just picking on the tradesmen. Counter help, receptionists, schedulers, sales people, almost ANY government office and the ENTIRE medical “industry” are headed downhill like a “snowball headed for hell,” as Merle put it. Problems in this sector provide a little bit clearer picture of the human side of the ongoing priority shift from customer to provider. It also illustrates the lapse in the GenPop’s upbringing that has apparently omitted EMPATHY. Face it, there are people out there whose job requires them to work directly with the public. Most of these folks seem to be a firewall between the customer and the person we REALLY need to talk to; mechanics, plumbers, doctors, or the guy in Pakistan who’s answering phones for a corporate help line. There are people whose People Skills are SO lacking that you have to wonder who in the world would have them working in direct contact with paying customers. There are certain types of individuals so ill-suited for this work that they literally cause businesses to FAIL. Not the huge corporations; they could care less about you & me. I’m talking hometown businesses and new businesses.
More on the “age” thing. Worker bees are starting to look THROUGH me, because I’m an old guy. Ageism, sexism, racism; it all comes into play when we are out in the world. Most of us have been victims, and we can relate. I’ve been known to stop talking long enough for them to notice that I did so. I then make eye contact and ask, straight-up, “Are you listening?” It usually makes them mad, but if they’re ignoring me while I’m trying to GIVE THEM MONEY, they need to know that they are doing it wrong. And they generally DO listen to me after I call them out, even if they think I’m a danged old curmedgeon. (Which I am.)
What to do? Well, I only give providers one chance to take my money. If they don’t want it enough to treat me like a customer, I’m out and they are F-I-R-E-D. I have a list of boycotts, and a few of them are on it due to bad service. Haven’t been in a Walmart in about five years, now. I’ll walk out and never come back. I’ll hang up the phone and call the next provider on my Google search.
So, we can’t be going around being Karens & Kyles all the time. We HAVE to be nice. I remind myself to smile at folks and be pleasant. We’ve all seen those videos of people acting the fool over at Burger King. We should really cut the workmen and counter folks some slack. Give them the benefit of the doubt. (To a point.) They are dealing with life, too, just like we are. But as customers, we have RIGHTS. We should always be assertive, focused, and flexible enough to figure out an alternative to whatever excuse for business is being fobbed off on us by a lackluster service provider and their lackluster employees.
OK – I’ll stop now. You get the picture. I could call out a few businesses, but I won’t. Not trying to get any individual in trouble, here. IMO, it’s ultimately NOT the worker bee’s fault. I blame sketchy 21st Century business practices and a corrupt capitalist system. It’s poor management that’s to blame.
Just know this: ANY “business” person I hear whining about how HARD it is to make a go of it, pay taxes, hire help, etc. has a lot less credibility today than they might have back in the days when the customer came first. Unfortunately, the negative fallout from bad experiences with bad customer service extends to ALL businesses, not just the bad ones.
Y’all have a great rest of the week. I’ll see ya in the funny papers. jb
RESIST – Thinking that ANYONE is doing you a big favor by taking your money. It’s the opposite. You are doing THEM a favor by ALLOWING them to do work for you and EARN that money.
EDITOR’S NOTE. Joe Baxter is one of my favorite people. He loves music, the Arcadia Round Barn, his wife Jean, a club sandwich from Farmstead Cafe, Route 66, and America (not in that order). A songwriter and musician, he has a way with words and can turn a phrase such that you want to listen, or in this case, read for a while. If you are one of his “face friends” on social media, you know he can get you thinking with his posts and musings. Let’s insert here that Joe’s comments might not “reflect the views of staff and management,” or they might. All views, musings, and submissions are welcome here on these digital pages where we don’t kill trees or buy ink by the barrel! Find Joe at the Arcadia Round Barn where he is the head conversation aficionado catching stories from Route 66 travelers from all over the world, and getting the band together eight days a week! Thanks Ramblin’ Joe! Y’all ENJOY! – dawn