Service with a Snarl

Service with a Snarl

Customer Outrage is Justified

by Catherine Rahal

Shelle Rose Charvet says there’s a crisis in customer service.
Judging in part from the mail I received in response to my columns on bank and cable company services, she’s hit the nail squarely on the head.

Rose Charvet is an expert in below-conscious communication: the factors that, outside of their awareness, make people do or not do things. Her company, Success Strategies, focuses on helping people communicate better, primarily in business.

According to Rose Charvet, two observations apply to corporate customer service.
First, everything you do affects the emotional state of your customer. Second, everything you do determines what the customer believes about your organization.

Rose Charvet says corporations tend to work from their own perspective and don’t see what it is like to be a customer.

I guess we need to get a bank employee to try opening a chequing account in the same way the rest of us have to do it.

The Customer Is Bothering Me, Rose Charvet’s book in progress, due to come out next year, will take corporations to task and offer them suggestions on how to improve. The chapter on Customer Outrage says customers have a reason to be angry.

Trying to get someone to make a change, particularly in large institutions, is nearly impossible, because such organizations rarely listen to their front-line employees, the ones customers get to see. How often have you heard, “I wish I could help. You’ll have to write to head office”?

From the consumer’s side, Rose Charvet says a major shift began to take place in the mid-1990’s and is in full swing today.

We customers are strapped for time; a service glitch can throw off a tight schedule for a day or more – not to mention what it does to one’s frame of mind.

As a result, we are more willing to vote with our feet now.

Think about it. Would you have threatened your mortgage lender with defection over half a point on your rate 15 years ago? Today, we do it without a second thought.

Until customer care actually provides effective service as the rule rather than the exception, Rose Charvet says we can make our lives easier on the consumer battlefield by choosing our words carefully.

Many customer-service reps are programmed to particular procedures and don’t seem able to function if it isn’t in their computer. Never say to such a person, “Can we find a way around this?” or “Is it possible to do this?” Instead, feed into the rep’s programming and ask: “What is the procedure to do this?”

Rose Charvet’s web site,, explains her thinking. At, you’ll find a place to contribute your own customer-service stories (good and bad) to her book.

You’ll also find a wonderful Customer Talkback Sheet to download. It’s a little slip of paper that rates the service you receive from No. 8 – “made an incredible difference to me” – down to No. 1 – “sullen and morose.” Print it out, circle the appropriate rating and don’t be shy to hand it out.

I’ll be sending my first No. 8 to, a Montreal computer books and software store that offers excellent service in-store, by phone and on-line.

I don’t need to tell you who’ll get a No. 1.

See other thought-provoking articles by Shelle »

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