Standing in line at a popular retail automotive chain store on the weekend to have my tires switched to the summer set I was drawn into the conversation ahead of me.
I overheard the service desk person tell the customer he would have to pay an extra $123.00 surcharge on top of the $110 standard fee to have his snow tires changed over to his four summer tires. When he was questioned as to why, the service person explained that due to the tire size the technicians would have to take special care not to damage his expensive wheels. Confused and bewildered, the customer pressed a little harder asking what specifically the technician would have do differently that would justify the additional charge.
His reply, "Sir, it's company policy that comes from head office." Obviously hitting the bottom of his ability to satisfy the customer's question, he passed the customer over to his supervisor.
The supervisor approaches the now frustrated customer who explains his confusion over the $123 surcharge. Supervisor's response, walking away and shaking HIS head in amazement ..... "Sir, we don't double charge you. Your revised total will be $123 not $110 plus $123." Evidently perturbed by the interruption, the supervisor turns and storms back into his office leaving as the customer is left to talk to the manager's back.
So what went wrong here? Front line customer care professionals take a lot of heat from a demanding public. Under pressure, the ability to listen and think on the part of this customer service individual had shut down. Having been repeatedly asked why there would be an extra charge of $123 over and above the standard fee of $110, there was no doubt as to the customer's question....... yet it just wasn't being heard. The individual had shifted into FIGHT - FLIGHT - FREEZE mode at some point either well before this encounter or there was something in the customer's tonality or body language that triggered the basic survival response mechanism of the customer service person.
Customer service people play a pivotal role as the front line interface between the company and those it depends on for business survival. No customers - No business. They are typically among the lowest paid and least appreciated in the company hierarchy, and last to receive training ... and managers wonder why they have high turnover at the front line customer service desk.