After Years of Excuses, I’ve Lost Patience with Slow Service

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Slow service just doesn’t do it for me anymore. At this point, it’s time for businesses to figure it out or just shut down.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, businesses embraced the pandemic as an excuse for slow service. The pandemic didn’t cause that problem. It was already a problem and already getting worse before we knew what COVID-19 was. Many blame low wages for the reason too many companies couldn’t find people willing to work. But three years after the pandemic became a thing, businesses are still giving that excuse as the reason they just can’t seem to move fast when a customer’s waiting.

Everywhere you go, you see it. Longer lines, shorter tempers. People waiting inordinate amounts of time just because there aren’t enough employees to wait on customers. Even when you call a business, you’ll sit on hold longer than ever. Sometimes I wonder if there’s anyone working the phone center.

Poor customer service is becoming the norm. It shouldn’t be something we customers have to accept.

The other day, I had a quite satisfying moment.

I’ve been in my new home now for two-and-a-half years. Yet there are still a handful of people whose mail I still receive. I’ve talked to my mail carrier about it. She said I should just put mail that is addressed to the wrong person in the outgoing mail slot. That, she said, would let them know they have a wrong address.

So far, they haven’t figured that out.

One of the people whose mail I receive owns a business somewhere in my area. One day, I’m going to track down that business, which appears to be some sort of mobile food truck business without a clear location.

But a funny thing happened this week. I received a piece of mail for this guy from a finance company that’s also in my area. In fact, said finance company is just a few blocks away from my home.

I called them to let them know they sent mail to the wrong address. Immediately, the guy who answered, “Larry,” gave me toll-free number to call.

Why do I need to be the one to call? I didn’t cause this problem.

But I called. And I sat on hold. After about five minutes on hold, listening to the same 15-second message replay every 45 seconds or so, I got in my car and drove to the business. Initially, I went the wrong way and had to turn around. But even with the extra few minutes caused by my poor sense of direction, I was still on hold.

I arrived at the business and the elevator music continued along with the repeating message.

I walked in and saw “Larry” at his desk. It was definitely him: he had a nice bronze nameplate on his desk.

He immediately greeted me and asked if he could help me.

“Yes, you can,” I said, handing him the piece of mail. “We spoke on the phone a little while ago about me having received this person’s mail. You gave me a number to call.”

“Did you not get through to them?” he asked.

“No, and I’ve been on hold now for 23 minutes,” I said, raising my phone. I clicked the end-call button. “Now, I’m going to give you this letter. You can call this number and sit on hold for 23 minutes or 46 minutes or however long it takes for someone to finally answer. I’ve spent all of my life I intend to on this. But make sure I do not receive mail again.”

I caught him off-guard. He apologized for the inconvenience. But I think he was genuinely shocked that I’d show up.

A little accountability goes a long way

I could have just hung up and let it go. (And continued receiving this guy’s mail indefinitely.)

I know, I know…I’m still going to receive the guy’s mail. I’m sure “Larry” didn’t waste his time sitting on hold the way he expected me to.

When I had to deal with a home warranty company, I regularly faced hold times of more than 20 minutes just to get a human. The recording would tell me they were experiencing a “higher-than-normal” call volume. But when that was the case every time, that was normal.

Businesses like that finance company think it’s somehow acceptable to pass off a customer to an endless wait.

COVID-19 apparently conditioned some businesses to believe customers were willing to accept slow service as a new normal.

We’re not.

We shouldn’t have to.

Those businesses need to figure out how to staff themselves sufficiently. Sooner or later, if they don’t, their customers’ departures will put them out of business soon enough!

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.