|Tim McElligott Blog|
Customer Service: A Century of Progress
One hundred years ago this month, in May of 1912, and roughly 10 years after the recently deceased, but well-regarded Telephony magazine began publication, there ran an article in Scientific American on retail theory. Part of it pertained to customer satisfaction. Before I tell you what it said, I want to say, "Ladies, hold on to your hats."
Say what you will about today's customer service, and I have been saying a lot lately, at least it isn't blatantly dishonest and dehumanizing. Today's customer service can be lazy at times, misguided occasionally and poorly executed, but at least we don't use people, woman, as goats.
Scientific American, 1912: "There are as many women as there are men who pursue odd ways of earning money, one class of which would be designated as 'goats,' for it is their business to be 'discharged' from the department stores in which they are 'employed' a number of times each day. When a grouchy or haute customer makes complaint of discourteous treatment against a clerk, one of the 'goats' is summoned to the office as the person in charge of that particular department. There she is given a good talking to in front of the angry customer and summarily 'dismissed,' and the complainant goes away rejoicing."
It may say more about the customer back in 1912 than it does the employer who would put on such a ruse to please them. I mean, would you actually rejoice over getting someone fired? The Gilded Age had already waned and the Progressive Era had just begun, but I guess everyone still thought they were an aristocrat – or needed to act like they were.
So I guess customer service has come a long way, despite its imperfections. There is a great deal of work being done today with predictive analytics and its applications for marketing and customer care. May we all be around to see its broad application. I doubt that any such solution will have a "recommended next action" that includes staging the humiliation and firing of an employee.
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