CUSTOMERS: companies need them

I am just doing my job.

That line can really get on my nerves… especially when it comes from someone who is paid to keep customers happy.

I realise employees who deal with the public are mainly expected to help their employers make money, but an important aspect of the job should be to treat customers in a way that makes them want to use the company again. That is usually a far better long term approach.

I’m not saying they should assume the customer is always right.

Many requests are unreasonable or impossible to grant, so many need to be refused. In my opinion, however, those refusals should be done as politely as possible.

Unfortunately, the ‘just doing my job’ line is also used to avoid having to deal with reasonable requests simply because it makes life easier in the short run for the workers. That is a problem for both customers and employers, although I can understand how it happens… especially when the wages are not very good.

The one that really irritates me, though, is when someone’s job description is used to exercise power.

My eldest daughter and I were on the receiving end of one of those last week when we went to visit her sister who is working in the Alps and the incident motivated me to write this column.

I chose to fly to western France on EasyJet because they had good prices and offered flights out of the airport closest to our home in central England.

The price was based on just taking one piece of carry-on luggage each, so we cut back on what we packed and I paid for one extra piece to be checked into the cargo hold.

When we got to the airport, the lady who had been left to work the desk on her own was very friendly but she had problems printing our luggage tag and the queue got quite long while she tried to sort the problem. During the delay she also offered to check-in one of our carry-on pieces free of charge.

Before that happened, a colleague arrived to deal with the faulty computer while the lady moved to another terminal to serve the next passenger. Unfortunately for us, when the computer started working again our new check-in person refused to honour his colleague’s offer because she hadn’t measured the case to make sure it was within carry-on limits.

As it turned out, the case itself was, but the wheels that extended about two centimetres below made the overall length just over the limit, so we had to pay an additional P500 to check it onto the plane.

Okay, by the letter of the law he was correct but he was very nasty about it and he embarrassed his co-worker in front of the long queue that had built up because the company’s computer didn’t work properly.

When I pointed that out, his response was that he was just doing his job. When we boarded the plane, however, the attendants overlooked several larger pieces of carry-on luggage so obviously doing so was an option.

Cheap and nasty; those words often go together but they don’t have to, and in the service industry it is far better in the long run if they don’t.

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