Today I was about to purchase a yearly subscription for public transportation in Berlin, the capital city of Germany. I entered one of the customer’s information points where you can ask for general information or buy tickets.
I asked about the conditions for the ticket like contract duration, options to cancel and cancellation fees. The lady on the other side of the desk decided to not answer in spoken language but grabbing a sheet, putting it right in front of my face, pointing her finger to a text that was small and hard to read.
„So, you don’t want to talk to me?“, I asked. She replied with an obvious sound of disenchantment (read: annoyed) because she was not in the mood of really answering my questions since it was all written on the paper, right?
Oh yes. That’s how you should do it. Let’s stop talking and refer to sometimes hard to understand terms and conditions pages because it’s all written there. There’s no need to be serving as the human shortcut who has a knowledge advantage over the customer.
It pissed me off.
Why is that woman behind a desk where her job is to answer people’s questions and actually enjoy doing it? What is she doing there? You may not know: Germany has a bad reputation among Germans themselves in terms of service. Some 15 years ago there was a saying: „Germany — service desert.“ If you compare this to the (occasionally overly) executed but very mature service mentality the USA shows, Germany is like a young child with barely some teeth in the mouth. At least this how I felt.
That’s why I didn’t pursue my goal of buying this yearly subscription. The „how“ is important. Her how made me want to pull her off the seat and slap her face so that she wakes up and realizes that I want to be served and treated well. Because she can be my first impression with a company.
The takeaway for today: If you serve clients or customers you have the great and big responsibility to serve them well. You’re the face of the company. How you serve is how the company will be seen.
Customer service is an essential branding process. This woman was relatively old (in her late 50s). From how I experienced her, she doesn’t mind destroying a brand perception. She maybe is nice as a person with no corporate suit and could probably be a really cool grandma but today in this very moment with my arrival at her place she showed that she was fed up answering a question she heard a billion times before.
Never get tired of repeating your speech. There will always be one person who didn’t hear it before. You’re this one’s first time.
Also published on Medium.