A List Apart: Articles: Being Human is Good Business

I’ve been thinking a lot about customer service and if it’s possible for big companies to actually be any “good” at it. And by big companies I mean big-box-type-franchise-everywhere-in-the world type of companies. Because while I do believe that it is possible to have a good relationship with your customers, I don’t think those relationships are made to scale. A small company can maintain those human relationships, as the A List Apart Article describes, but it’s practically impossible when a company gets too big. The only way they know how to deal with them is to either treat them like a problem to solve or as some percentage that adds or subtracts to the company’s revenue.

Of course, big or small, every company wants to make the person that gives them money happy. That’s a no brainer. The problem is that the big ones want to provide that happiness in a totally mechanical and non human way. They want to copy that cozy, small business atmosphere and be friendly to customers. They train their salespeople to make their customer forget they are salespeople, which is really meta and confusing.

Thing is, relationships with people are spontaneous. They are not a rigid set of rules and strategies that you can easily follow. They’re unpredictable. You can’t be strategically friendly. It doesn’t work out like that. If you’re a salesman on the floor no matter how hard you try, unless you’re being genuine, you are in the end a salesman on the floor. Looking for something to “chat” about with a customer to put his guard down is going to be worse in the end because you’re going to annoy the hell out of people that just want to grab and pay and your going to alienate a lot people that could potentially create that cozy “atmosphere”. Back in the day they used to call them window shoppers.

Sorry for getting all Seth Godiny, but this is something that I’ve been wanting to get out my chest for a while.