The Death of Customer Service

I’ve worked in customer service for most of my adult life in: retail, small business/sales, cafes, catering and library work. It’s not easy working with the public but through the years, I’ve honed my sensitivity and empathetic skills. I have my off days, but I’ve learned how to calm customers and find solutions to their problems. I think the key to good customer service is genuinely listening to people’s situations and finding fair compromises and conclusions.

There’s no perfect system and sometimes policies go against ideal customer service but I think that’s when certain rules should be bent, depending on the circumstances. For instance at the library where I work, policies that were causing difficulties for our patrons were changed in favor of the patrons. We eliminated late fees and created automatic renewals and we increased the amount of materials that could be checked out to name a few customer oriented improvements. This was done so that patrons that had late fees and couldn’t afford to pay them, could return to using the library without the burden of the financial strain. Our motto became, “people over policies” and I think the changes have been successful and well appreciated.

While libraries have become more lenient and welcoming to patron’s needs, it seems the opposite has occurred in the business sector which I think is detrimental, not only to the customers but to the employees of disreputable companies, because they are the front line for receiving customer’s anger and outrage. New business models of “self-employment” in ride share companies like Uber/Lyft and delivery services from restaurants and grocery stores is the new wave in work but it I keep hearing stories about how ripped off these employees are feeling. They don’t receive benefits because of the loophole of being “self-employed”. I’ve heard of one homeless driver who sleeps crouched in a fetal position in her car because she can’t afford the high rents in the Bay Area. I bet no one would guess that she’s homeless.

This sounds like a perfect storm situation, where the couriers are not making enough money and it can lead to internal theft. I think most company thefts are from disgruntled employees, theft is wrong but I think the ones who resort to it rationalize that they’re getting their fair share of the company’s bloated profits. I wonder if background checks are mandatory for the drivers? A recent video I saw on YouTube showed how a food delivery driver stole mail packages from the apartment lobby after the customer received their food and was out of sight. The driver lingered, made sure no one was around and then stole several boxes of deliveries. It was captured on a surveillance camera, the company, DoorDash said they fired her but did they conduct a criminal record search before they hired her?

I think every courier should pass a criminal record check before being hired, especially the Uber/Lyft drivers. Customer’s privacy is no longer protected (personal information like home/work address and cell phone information are given to the drivers) but the identity of the driver is protected. I think there’s a huge potential for stalking, rape or theft; especially when the passenger is young and drunk and it’s late at night. I’m sure most drivers are good people but the potential for a predator taking advantage of the situation is high in my opinion.

Yesterday I learned my lesson to never use the food delivery service, Grubhub again. I originally signed up for the service called Eat 24, (I had no issues with them) but they unfortunately merged with Grubhub a few years ago. Grubhub on the other hand has been nothing but trouble.

On weekends I like to relax at home with my son, we splurge on take out food and on particularly cold days I order food delivery. I don’t drive, so this convenience is worth the exuberant delivery fees which sometimes are more expensive than the actual food. I always tip the couriers and sometimes add more to my tip after the delivery, depending on how cool the courier was. Some are rude, they double park their car across the street and motion for me to come get it; while others come to the apartment gate. Some even go the extra step by taking the elevator to my floor and knocking on my door, they’re very sweet but rare. I tip couriers that use bicycles higher because of the greater effort they’re making and I don’t bother them when it’s raining, (it seems mean to ask bicyclists to endanger their lives by venturing out into bad weather).

I’ve worked in jobs where tips are crucial to making ends meet so I try to tip more than the minimum; I’m not independently wealthy, but I tip what I can to even out the minimum wage that most servers barely survive under. Yesterday was no exception, I ordered a delicious lunch for my son and I and we waited patiently for about 45 minutes for the food. I made sure my phone ringer was on and at a high volume, while I periodically checked the tracking status of the order.

Finally I could see the driver’s car a few blocks away and I left the room. Within a minute my son said, “It says our food was delivered!” He’s a tech savvy kid and usually watches out for deliveries by looking out of our balcony window. I told him, “The driver must be downstairs, I’ll be right back.” When I checked outside, there was no driver.

I went back upstairs to online chat with Grubhub customer service and they told me that the deliver called me and left when I didn’t answer my phone. No one called me, there was no ring and no record of a call but they chose to believe their driver over me. I then called Grubhub customer service thinking I would get a better response, but nope, they too believed the driver over me. They made no attempt to redeliver my food even though the driver was probably still nearby. They said they “couldn’t” refund the $35 dollars I spent, (including a generous tip to the driver) for goods that I never received. How is this fair? What other legitimate business can refuse to refund money from customers that they’ve stolen from?

I can survive being ripped off $35 bucks, but I can’t understand what has happened to customer service and basic fairness in the new business model? Grubhub offered to give me a 50% discount on my next order, ha! I told them there would Never be a next order from me. I imagined the asshole driver eating the food I ordered while enjoying my tip and income from Grubhub and I fumed. I hope he choked on our yummy potstickers! Customer service is dead in this new economy.

As suggested in a comment, I bought frozen potstickers. No more delivery for me especially never from GrubHub!

14 Comments

  1. I once used my blog to review a poorly performing company–Sears. Now they’re out of business and I congratulate myself on making that happen. Remarkably, we find ourselves drawn to Walmart because of the remarkable customer service (don’t chastise, where I live Walmart is a loooong way from the worst employer). Not long ago, my wife bought shoes at the only local shoe shop in town. After one wearing the fake wooden veneer peeled off the heel of the shoes she paid $125 for. When she tried to take them back, the owner said he would only replace them if the shoe company refunded him. I pointed out that Walmart has never refused me a return, but he didn’t change his position. We’re living in a screwy economy. And it’s a shame that a mega-corporation like Walmart is setting the standard for customer service instead of the local mom and pop, but that seems to be the case.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so wrong what the shoe store owner said to your wife, but it’s so typical of business policies nowadays. There’s usually no apologies or correction for mistakes that businesses make. I think good customer service is actually what brings repeat business so is it that consumers expect less? Whatever happened to the phrase, “the customer is always right”? I guess this new attitude is a backlash against the past. I equate good customer service with good manners, (sigh) times have changed.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Jeff, I was having problems updating my blog today maybe it’s related. Regarding the poem, I was thinking of a metaphor for 20/20 vision/clarity with the new 2020 year. There’s a phrase “ignorance is bliss”, but I’d rather be wise/able to see reality, I think truth is connected to freedom. Thanks for your observant comment.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Do not despair, there is still good customer service around, however you have noted some very good points. Love your library example, have seen that in other areas as well. When I had my business I always considered that I had two customers I tried to treat fairly, those who bought my products and services, and those who delivered them. Without either one, you are not guaranteed the other for any great length of time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think good customer service is about respect, fairness and acknowledgement; you treated your customers and staff well and it helped your business. No one wants to be stolen from or shut down with a curt. “I can’t help you” when they actually can help but don’t want to! Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I think many companies simply don’t care anymore (if they ever did). The guy who “helped” me on the phone (by offering me a discount on my next order), hung up on me after I said I would never order food from them again. I know I’m being ageist, but he sounded like a typical millennial. Thanks for your supportive comment.

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  3. That is absolutely disgusting to be rip off like that… and to be brushed off by customer service! Absolutely BS. I can feel your frustration! I would be so livid and jumping mad.

    Try this, maybe it works (usually works for me over here in Asia):
    I’ll call customer service and with the sweetest voice, I’d say “I’m sorry but I really don’t want to repeat my story again and again. And as much as I respect you, I doubt you have the authority to fulfill my request. I know you are trying to help and I really don’t want to put you in a spot. But I really need someone empowered to take action. So please get your on-duty manager or team leader on the phone right now. I’d wait on line as long as it takes. But don’t make me wait too long that it impacts your call resolution time. I’d feel bad if this call affects your KPI.”

    I did this with banks, food delivery, Uber, telco, Airbnb and many others… I usually get to speak to the in-charge and get them to listen and come up with a resolution on the spot. If they can’t, it means they are not authorised to do so and I will repeat the same thing as above again until I get to speak to someone who can.

    Yes, I am relentless b*tch when I need to be. Oops 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Kally❣️I think I should try to get to speak to the in-charge person again but I feel like each time they give the same robotic response and I feel too frustrated with the process (both times I contacted them, they wouldn’t transfer me when I asked although I wasn’t rude to them). I like how you phrased the request, it was polite and direct. I think reasonable staff would have transferred me but something’s wrong with Grubhub! I’m disputing the charge with my credit card, they were empathetic but fear they “can’t” help me either. 😔 lesson learned, no more food delivery!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You have nailed the problems with customer service and the gig economy directly on the head. It’s horrible that you did not get the food you paid for and that no one would help you get it. I have had no inclination to use Grub Hub and this confirms that I probably won’t. I still get delivered pizza on occasion, but thats about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Reading supportive comments like yours makes me feel heard, thank you❣️I will never order food delivery again (except from places that have their own delivery staff perhaps). I guess I’ll end up saving money, lesson learned 🙂.

      Liked by 1 person

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