I had to go to my bank this week. As
usual, two tellers were open for the dozen or so of us in line.
What I needed couldn't be done at the bank machine, so I took
my place in line behind the velvet rope.
The two customers parked at the tellers
seemed as unlikely to move as a shady lawyer at an accident.
One of them was apparently paying off the entire national debt
of Brazil in loose nickels. The other looked like she was trying
to open an account with a fifty cent bill from Canadian Tire
and was using a hospital bracelet as ID.
As my lunch hour dwindled away, I noticed
a sign on the counter next to the teller. It said:
"Due to an increase in business,
we anticipate heavy traffic in the branch in the last three days
of the month. Our customer sales reps will be pleased to help
you develop a banking schedule that will help you avoid long
It's nice the bank is getting more business.
I was worried their profits might be down a billion or two this
quarter. But what their sign said was they had no intention of
using the extra money to hire extra customer service reps during
the busy hours caused by all this new business. Instead, the
bank wants to "help" me find a time when they're not
too busy to serve me.
In other words, buzz off and come back
when we're not so busy or be prepared to hunker down for a long
The Passport Office has taken a different
approach to the same problem. They've posted a big sign in their
waiting room showing all the hours of each days of the week.
They show how busy each hour of the day usually is. The most
unbearable hours are marked red, busy hours in yellow and the
good times to apply for a passport are marked in green.
The only problem was there is no green
on the entire board - meaning there simply is no good time to
apply for a passport.
I have to point out that all the people
I dealt with at the passport office when I was there a month
ago were all helpful and nice. (It's true, and I'm not just saying
it to make sure they don't cancel my passport next time I'm out
of the country.)
And recently the phone company announced
that a real operator won't answer anymore when you dial zero.
Instead, you are greeted with a helpful menu of choices to make
absolutely sure that you really do want to waste the time of
a real live operator. Only after you've listened to the wide
variety of helpful services ("press three now if your hair
is on fire"), do you get a chance to talk to a human.
More and more the customer is being treated
like an annoyance rather than the reason these companies exist.
I've worked on the front lines of customer
service before, and the public can be a great big pain in the
southern regions. As consumers, the great public can be rude,
dumb and slow.
What these companies don't realize is that the secret of customer
service is not telling us we're just a bunch of dumb time wasters
that suck the profit out of their bottom lines at least
not to our faces.