This line was spoken to me by a woman standing behind me yesterday as we both witnessed another sorry example of what passes for customer service these days.

I had to LOL because I have been using this wireless provider for five very painful years and have experienced many less than satisfying encounters with a number of so called customer service reps both in person and on the (yet again so called) help line.

I couldn’t wait for my plan (read: period of indentured servitude) to be over and done with so I could escape to someone, anyone, who would actually seem to care I was their customer.

Yet, when I had the chance 18 months ago to ‘break up’ with them, I was seduced by one of those fast talking call centre types with promises of a cheaper price, more data and enhanced this and that.  And, as with an abusive boyfriend proclaiming undying love, once they ‘had me’, nothing really changed after all.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have worked with the head office of this company through an associate.  As much as ‘naming and shaming’ the company would allow me to vent my spleen,  it could put my partner in an awkward position.  So I will simply refer to it as one of the top three wireless service providers in Canada.

Perhaps sadder than one company’s poor customer service is that I could be talking about any of the ‘Big 3’.  I have spoken to many others who swear their provider is the worst ever.  We all threaten to take our business to the competition but who do you ‘go out with’ when it seems one is as bad as the other?

For me this begs the question what is the gap between what is happening and what should be happening?

To identify the gap, I think of a tool  called “What is missing?” that allows us to consider whether the missing link is skills, knowledge or commitment or any combination of the three.  To be clear, a skill is something we can DO, knowledge is what we KNOW and commitment is our individual willingness to apply these and TAKE PRIDE in doing our best.

Often, front line workers across many sectors are part of the 20 something demographic.  And far from being someone who rants and raves about ‘kids today’, I bring this up with curiosity wondering if they have been given the required tools for them to be great ambassadors of their company .   In this example,  they seem to know about the technology but do they get any customer service (not sales) training specifically and  communications skills training generally?  And what about knowing and understanding why they should care about their customers’ experience?

Formal training isn’t the answer to developing a  committed employee although coaching and mentoring from a proven committed employee will go along way.  Fundamentally people will be, maintain and enhance their commitment based on how they are treated.  If a company wants their employees to treat their customers well then it needs to create the climate where employees feel cared for and about.  (The topic of how to engage employees-or not- is another post unto itself!)

I have no idea  about the inner workings of this particular company.  And maybe the rules go out the window when you have great demand and few suppliers.  Or maybe this is just the way of the world and we will have to come to expect poor customer service as the norm.  I so hope not!

What I do know is, I am definitely keeping my eyes peeled for another ‘suitor’ and I am certainly not in this relationship ’til death do us part’!