Yesterday, as I was explaining my complaints to the sixth person at a credit card company, I began to wonder whatever happened to customer service. Does anyone remember what that was? When I was younger (yes, it is going to be about the good old days when I was younger), it seemed to me that people actually cared about your business enough to treat you like a human being. I think the good old days began to wind down when I was sixteen and overheard a woman on the phone say, “Listen, woman, I don’t care what you say….” to the party on the other end of the line. The woman I overheard was the customer and I would imagine that the “woman” in question was a customer service provider. When the customers became surly and entitled, I’m sure the customer service associates followed suit. So who or what is to blame? The world has certainly changed from “back then”!
I am currently typing on a personal computer that was unimagined by most people when I was at the tender age of 16. When I have completed this essay? Observation? Rant? I will “attach” it to an email that will be sent through cyberspace to the computer of Supermom, who will then post it to her blog. What is the definition and etymology of “blog”? I mean, how in the world did someone come up with that word? But I digress. So, my opus will arrive, it will be edited (I hope) and then posted for the world to see. The program I’m using even checks my spelling and grammar! Too bad it doesn’t correct bad composition. Does anyone even remember what it was like to type on a typewriter? I do. I especially remember typing in triplicate and using those little strips of corrector, which, by the way, were the technological wonders of their day, after a three cocktail lunch with my co-workers. Whatever neurons I had disabled at lunch were revived by a challenging afternoon of trying my darnedest not to make any mistakes. Ah, the memories! That was 22 years ago. TWENTY-TWO! If I had made a kid back then, they’d be old enough to drink now.
Anyway, PC’s were just the beginning. They gave birth to ATM’s (remember actually having to go inside the bank to get your money and plan ahead?), cell phones (remember actually having to set a time and be there if you were meeting someone?), and credit cards (remember when children didn’t have them…or just about anyone else for that matter?). We used to have to know how to count change, speak to people we didn’t personally know in a pleasant manner, make eye contact with strangers, SMILE! Please excuse the shouting, I have strong feelings.
So, here I am, the mother of a four-year-old. I enjoy many of life’s new conveniences, as I’m sure my grandmother enjoyed the convenience of indoor plumbing when she left the farm where she was raised. Imagine what life must have been like for her! From riding horses and plowing the fields to watching a rocket take off from Earth and land a module on the moon. It must have been mind-blowing. Still, I long for the world to be more as she described it: simple, self-sufficient, slower (unless I’m online, of course), solid. I long to teach my daughter the values of self-sacrifice and patience. These two values more than anything else, carried an entire generation through a devastating depression and a world war, both of which ushered in unprecedented advances and societal upheavals. Do I even understand those values enough to pass them on? And what kinds of challenges will I face as a parent when my daughter gets older and more autonomous?
I can barely understand the text-speak now! God knows what it will be like when my sweet little girl is a teenager. I shudder at the thought. My hope is, however, that should she ever be in a position to provide customer service, she will remember that it is a fellow human across the counter or on the other end of the phone, and take the time to listen and at least try to offer assistance. That’s really all I wanted yesterday. Miracle of miracles, four of the six people I talked to gave me the attention I so desperately craved. I guess there is hope after all.